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(CNN) — The last time anyone saw Russel Rebello alive, he was near the stern of the Costa Concordia, helping passengers into rescue boats.

But the 33-year-old waiter from India never escaped the doomed cruise ship. And he’s the only victim of the 2012 shipwreck whose remains haven’t been found.

Investigators hope that could change soon. On Monday morning, salvage crews began the arduous task of trying to refloat the ship so they can move it to the Italian port of Genoa to be dismantled.

It’s been more than two and a half years since the ship ran aground off Italy’s Giglio Island with more than 4,200 passengers aboard, killing 32 people in a disaster that drew global attention.

And it’s been 10 months since salvage teams rolled the 114,000-ton vessel off the rocks in one of the most complex shipwreck recovery efforts ever undertaken.

But there’s still more work to be done.

“We are not at the end, but we are at a critical moment,” Giglio Mayor Sergio Ortelli told reporters.

For the past 10 months, engineers have been hard at work, attaching metal boxes to either side of the ship.

Now they will try to drain the water from the boxes. In its place, they’ll pump compressed air, causing the ship to float.

At first, they’ll raise it just 2 meters (6.5 feet).

It’s a dangerous and tricky procedure. The ship is rotting, and there’s a real risk the bottom of it could give way.

They’ll then tug the Concordia about 30 meters to the east, and lower some of the metal boxes on the starboard side of the ship. They’ll attach more chains and cables to help reinforce the bottom.

Then the full refloat begins, lifting the Concordia up, deck by deck, clearing any debris along the way.

Once the ship is completely floated, they’ll tow it — slowly and carefully — 240 kilometers (150 miles) to Genoa.

Officials say it’s likely the towing process won’t start for days, due to port restrictions. It will take five to six days for the ship to reach Genoa, officials said.

Giglio Mayor Sergio OrtelliMichael Thamm, president of Costa Crociere, called the operation “the most daunting salvage ever attempted on a ship of its size.”

Since the wreck two years ago, 24 metric tonnes of debris, including furniture, dishes, food, personal effects and ship parts, have been recovered from the seabed.

While salvage crews continue efforts to deal with the wreckage, Francesco Schettino, the ship’s captain, is on trial on charges of manslaughter, causing a maritime disaster and abandoning ship with passengers still on board. He denies wrongdoing.

Search teams thought they had found Rebello’s remains last October. But the body divers found turned out to be Maria Grazia Trecarichi, a Sicilian had been on the cruise to celebrate her 50th birthday with her 17-year-old daughter, who survived

(CNN) — Divers have found what they believe are human remains on the wrecked Costa Concordia cruise ship, the Italian Civil Protection agency announced Tuesday.

The bodies of two people from the 2012 wreck have never been found: Russel Rebello of India and Maria Grazia Trecarichi of Sicily have been missing but presumed dead. Their bodies have long been believed to be either trapped beneath or inside the ship.

Italian authorities also said two weeks ago that divers found what they thought were human remains on the ship’s Deck 4. But they later determined that the remains were animal.

The cruise liner capsized after it struck rocks off Italy’s Giglio Island in the Tyrrhenian Sea in January 2012, killing 32 of 4,200 people on board. The toll includes Rebello and Trecarichi.

Rebello, 33, was a cruise waiter who was last seen helping passengers off the ship. Trecarichi was on the cruise to celebrate her 50th birthday with her 17-year-old daughter, who survived.

The new discovery of remains comes about three weeks after engineers managed to rotate the ship back to vertical. Before that, the ship rested 20 months on its side, hindering a full examination.

Authorities say the ship struck the rocks off Giglio Island after the captain, Francesco Schettino, ordered the liner to veer more than four miles off course to salute a former sea captain who had retired on Giglio.

Schettino faces charges of manslaughter, causing a maritime disaster and abandoning ship with passengers still on board. His trial, which began with preliminary hearings in March, resumed last month.

The trial is expected to last through the fall with a string of witnesses, including passengers, crew members and islanders, who say they saw the captain on shore looking for dry socks before all the passengers had been safely evacuated.

Schettino argues that he is a hero who saved the lives of more than 4,000 people, not a villain whose negligence led to the deaths of 32. His defense is trying to prove, among other things, that the ship’s watertight doors did not function properly, and that is the reason the ship sank, leading to all 32 deaths during evacuation.

Schettino also has told the court that the ship would not have crashed had his helmsman turned it in the direction that Schettino told him to 13 seconds before impact.

The helmsman, Jacob Rusli Bin, and four others were convicted in a plea deal in July for their role in the disaster. A Florence court is considering the validity of those plea bargain agreements.

CNN’s Hada Messia, Jason Hanna and Barbie Latza Nadeau contributed to this report.

National & World News
09/26/13

Remains found on Costa Concordia

Barbie Latza Nadeau, (CNN) — Human remains have been found on the wrecked Costa Concordia, possibly answering what happened to the last two missing passengers of the cruise liner that ran aground off Italy’s Giglio Island in 2012, a spokesman for the head of Italy’s civil protection agency said Thursday.

Divers will try to recover the remains, which were found on deck 4, on Thursday afternoon, the spokesman said.

The discovery comes a week after engineers finally righted the ship, which capsized when it ran aground in January 2012, killing 32 of the 4,200 people on board.

The toll of 32 includes two people who were missing but presumed dead: Russel Rebello of India and Maria Grazia Trecarichi of Sicily.

National & World News
09/17/13

Costa Concordia standing upright

(CNN)

GIGLIO, Italy — Engineers succeeded Tuesday in righting the Costa Concordia cruise liner off the Italian island of Giglio, where it had capsized when it ran aground in January 2012, killing dozens of people.

“She is standing upright better than anyone thought she would be,” said Nick Sloane, the senior salvage master, about the vessel three football fields in length. “When she started moving, she moved slowly but surely. There was no twisting at all. It was exactly as the plan said it would be.”

In an unprecedented and painstaking process that involved massive pulleys, cables and steel tanks, the 500-person salvage crew from 26 countries rolled the 114,000-ton vessel off the rocks on which it had rested since it ran aground.

“It was a perfect operation, I would say,” said Franco Porcellacchia, the head of the technical team for the cruise line Costa Crochiere, owned by American firm Carnival Cruises.

The effort began at 9 a.m. Monday. By midnight, despite delays caused by thunderstorms and the need to tighten a slack cable, the ship had been hauled off the rocks and upward about 25 degrees. That was far enough for the salvage crew to start drawing water into massive steel boxes attached to the exposed side of the hull and then use the weight of that water to finish rolling the hulk onto a steel platform built off the sea floor.

Four hours later, the wrecked ship was resting on the platform, said Franco Gabrielli, the head of Italy’s Civil Protection Authority. Once the ship was righted, a slashing, diagonal line could be seen separating the white paint of the exposed hull from the brownish muck that had collected on its starboard side.

There appeared to be no sign of leaks, Gabrielli told reporters — a promising sign, as the wrecked liner is full of spoiled food and chemicals in material such as paint and lubricants.

“The sides of the ship will need major work and repair, but today we have really taken a clear step to allow the ship to be taken away,” Gabrielli said.

But first, authorities will temporarily take back possession of the site to look for the bodies of two crew members still missing, Sloane said.

Once the salvage crew regains possession of the ship, they will find much work remains, Gabrielli said. A robotic submarine equipped with surveillance cameras will survey the damaged side of the ship and create models needed in planning for the next phase of operations — the attachment of more buoyancy chambers called sponsons to the starboard side.

Once those are installed, water will be pumped out of the sponsons to refloat the vessel. Organizers expect the ship won’t be towed away for dismantling until the summer of 2014.

“We will have a lot of things in the next few days to understand what needs to done to bring this venture to a conclusion,” Porcellacchia said.

But Tuesday’s predawn accomplishment was met with applause from the people of Giglio, a tiny island that was transformed by the disaster.

“We are not at the end of the operation, but this is a very important achievement,” Giglio Mayor Sergio Ortelli said.

No sign of lost victims’ remains

The Costa Concordia ran aground off Giglio in January 2012, killing 32 of the 4,200 people on board. The remains of Russel Rebello of India and Maria Grazia Trecarichi of Sicily have not been recovered.

Rebello, 33, was a cruise waiter who was last seen helping passengers off the ship. Trecarichi was on the cruise to celebrate her 50th birthday with her 17-year-old daughter, who survived.

The nearly $800 million effort is the largest maritime salvage operation ever, according to Costa Crochiere and its partners, Florida-based Titan Salvage and the Italian marine contractor Micoperi. Reporters and sightseers lined the port and the hillsides during the operation.

A complex process

Monday’s process, known as parbuckling, was the first step in the plan to remove and scrap the 952-foot ship. The Concordia was rotated onto giant platforms 30 meters (about 98 feet) below the water level, which leaves parts of the ship that have been dry for months submerged and filled with water.

No ship this large or heavy had ever been parbuckled before. Normally, crews would have blown up the ship or taken it apart on site — a cheaper route than what’s being done now.

But officials say that wasn’t an option with the Costa Concordia, because the ship is filled with noxious substances and because the two bodies are believed to be either trapped beneath or inside the ship.

Hundreds of people and dozens of companies have collaborated on the preparations, but the parbuckling came down to 12 people, including salvage master Sloane and specialized technicians, who guided the operation from inside a prefabricated control room set up on a tower on a barge in front of the ship.

In preparation for Monday, towers were anchored onto the rocky shore and fitted with computer-operated pulley-like wheels.

When the rotation began, the wheels guided thick cables and chains that pulled the middle third of the ship from under its belly toward Giglio. At the same time, more chains and cables attached to the sponsons welded onto the ship’s port side pulled the ship from the top toward the open sea.

Noxious substances, other items on board

If things had gone wrong, the ship could have broken apart, causing the toxic contents of the ship to leak.

They include thousands of liters of lubricants, paints, insecticides, glue and paint thinners as well as 10 tanks of oxygen and 3,929 liters of carbon dioxide.

Refrigerators filled with milk, cheese, eggs and vegetables have been closed tight since the disaster.

And the freezers that remain intact contain the rotting remnants of what were once 1,268 kilograms of chicken breasts, 8,200 kilograms of beef, 2,460 kilograms of cheese and 6,850 liters of ice cream.

The salvage operators set up two rings of oil booms equipped with sponges and skirts that extend into the water to catch any escaping debris.

Francesco Schettino, the captain who guided the ship off course, faces charges of manslaughter, causing a maritime disaster and abandoning ship with passengers still on board. His trial resumes September 23 in Grosseto.

(CNN)

GIGLIO, Italy — Delayed by three hours because of strong thunderstorms, the unprecedented operation of salvaging the massive Costa Concordia cruise liner began Monday morning off the coast of Italy, near the island of Giglio.

The giant vessel ran aground and tipped over in January 2012, killing 32 of the 4,200 people on board.

Righting the ship could take up to two days, but engineer Sergio Girotto said he’s an optimist, expecting the operation to take about 12 hours.

“I don’t think we will continue into the night,” he said. “After we start pulling, we should see something.”

At midday, the ship had been raised 3 degrees, or a few meters (6 to 10 feet), Girotto said.

The process

It sounds counter-intuitive, but in order to salvage the Costa Concordia, crews will sink portions of it deeper underwater.

The ship will then be pulled off the seabed and rotated onto giant platforms 30 meters (about 98 feet) below the water level. Areas of the ship that have been dry for months will be submerged and filled with water.

It’s a process known as par-buckling, and it’s become a household term in Giglio, the tiny island that was transformed when the Costa Concordia ran aground off its coast in January 2012.

A ship this large and this heavy — weighing 114,000 tons — has never been par-buckled before.

It is the largest maritime salvage operation ever, according to the cruise line. And expensive too, costing nearly $800 million so far.

Normally, crews would blow up the ship or take it apart on site. That would be the cheaper route.

But officials say that’s not an option with the Costa Concordia, because the ship is filled with noxious substances, and because there are two bodies still believed to be either trapped between the ship and its rocky resting place or somewhere deep in the ship’s hollow hull.

Waiter, passenger still missing

The two missing victims from the cruise ship disaster are Russel Rebello of India and Maria Grazia Trecarichi of Sicily, Italy.

Rebello, 33, was a cruise waiter who was last seen helping passengers off the ship.

Trecarichi was on the cruise to celebrate her 50th birthday with her 17-year-old daughter, one of thousands of people who survived the deadly shipwreck. On Monday, her daughter and husband will watch crews try to rotate the ship and, hopefully, find Trecarichi’s remains.

Technicians and salvage managers from all over the world will be watching closely to see what goes wrong and what works.

“It will set the new standard for maritime salvage,” Giovanni Ceccarelli, the project’s engineering manager, told CNN.

Hundreds of people and dozens of companies have collaborated on the preparations, but the par-buckling will come down to 12 people, including the salvage master and specialized technicians, who will be guiding the operation from inside a prefabricated control room set up on a tower on a barge in front of the ship.

A complex operation

Par-buckling, or righting, the ship could be done in a day or so, provided the weather agrees. So far, all seems to be fine, officials said on a website tracking the operation.

It’s a major turning point in a salvage operation for the Costa Crociere company, owned by American firm Carnival Cruises.

Tall towers anchored onto the rocky shoreline between the ship and the island have been fitted with computer-operated pulley-like wheels.

As the rotation begins, the wheels will guide thick cables and chains pulling the middle third of the ship from under its belly toward Giglio.

At the same time, more chains and cables attached to hollow boxes that have been welded onto the ship’s port side will pull the ship from the top toward the open sea.

After about four to six hours, the pulleys and cables will be rendered useless as gravity takes over and the ship essentially finishes the process, relying on the buoyant boxes alone to control the speed at which it rights itself.

Technicians will pump compressed air into the boxes to control the water levels, which will create buoyancy to slow the ship’s rotation until it eventually comes to rest on makeshift “mattresses” put in place on the steel platforms.

If all goes well, the ship will lift off the rocks in one piece and not separate or break apart. If things go wrong, it could be disastrous.

Noxious substances, other items on board

The ship contains a mix of chemicals that would be devastating for the environment if leaked into the water, which would happen if the ship breaks apart or sinks.

According to the Costa Concordia’s inventory list published in the Italian press and confirmed by Costa, thousands of liters of thick lubricants, paints, insecticides, glue and paint thinners were on board before it set sail three hours before it crashed.

There are also 10 large tanks of oxygen and 3,929 liters of carbon dioxide.

That’s not all.

Refrigerators filled with milk, cheese, eggs and vegetables have been closed tight since the disaster.

And the freezers that have not burst under the water pressure are still locked with their thawed, rotting contents sealed inside, including 1,268 kilograms of chicken breasts, 8,200 kilograms of beef, 2,460 kilograms of cheese and 6,850 liters of ice cream.

What’s next

As the ship rotates, much more water will enter it than will spill out, salvage operators say. That fresh seawater will dilute some of the toxic mix, but it will all eventually have to be purified and pumped out before the ship is towed across the sea for dismantling at its final port — a location that remains to be determined.

In the meantime, the salvage operators have set up two rings of oil booms with absorbent sponges and skirts that extend into the water to catch any debris that may escape.

Once the ship is upright, it will be months before the contents are removed, probably not until it reaches its final port.

At that time, Costa officials say they intend to remove personal effects from the staterooms and return those to each passenger, no matter how soggy. None of that is expected to happen before next summer.

Meanwhile, Francesco Schettino, the captain who guided the ship off course, faces charges of manslaughter, causing a maritime disaster and abandoning ship with passengers still on board. His trial resumes in Grosseto on September 23.

A turning point

Once the ship is upright, the salvage operation changes dramatically.

A tiny robotic submarine with surveillance cameras will survey the damaged side of the ship and create models needed in planning for the next phase of operations.

“It will look like a high-impact car accident when it is lifted,” Nick Sloane, the salvage master, told CNN. “It won’t be pretty.”

For days, salvage workers have been running simulations and testing their equipment. A steady hum of machinery out on the wreckage site could be heard night and day in Giglio harbor.

The ship looks nothing like it did months ago, when it seemed gigantic against the tiny island.

Now giant cranes, barges and generator towers dwarf the wreckage.

Success or failure, no matter what happens Monday, the Concordia will never again look the same.

    Five people have been convicted in the deadly Costa Concordia cruise ship wreck that happened off the coast of Italy last year.  The convictions come after the judge ruling over the case accepted their plea bargains Saturday morning.  All five are charged with manslaughter and causing personal injury.  Under the plea deal, Robert Ferrarini, Costa Cruises’ emergency manager, was sentenced to two years and 10 months in prison.  Manrico Giampedroni, hotel director of Costa Concordia, was sentenced to two years and six months behind bars.  Three others were sentenced to prison time, guilty of causing a shipwreck.  The ship’s captain, Francesco Schettino, is being charged separately on charges of manslaughter, causing maritime disaster and abandoning ship.

     Thirty-two people died when the Costa Concordia, a luxury liner carrying 3,200 passengers and 1,000 crew members, struck rocks off the Italian island of Giglio on January 13, 2012.  Another 150 people were injured in the evacuation of the ship — 65 of them seriously.

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