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Neale man tells of Italian cruise ship horror

Neale man tells of Italian cruise ship horror

Rory Browne (28) expresses shock at list of casualties

Michael Commins

A Mayo man who was a passenger aboard the ill-fated Costa Concordia cruise ship which struck rocks and ran aground off the Italian coast last week has expressed his shock that there were fatalities.
Rory Browne (28) of Kildun, The Neale only boarded the cruise ship hours before and believes that ‘everyone could have got off that ship alive’.
At the time of going to print there was a death toll of 15 from the tragedy while a further 24 people are missing. The Costa Concordia had approximately 4,200 passengers and crew on board when it struck rocks after sailing too close to the island of Giglio as part of a Mediterranean cruise.
The cruise company which operate the Costa Concordia, Carnival Corp, has suspended the ship’s captain, Francesco Schettino, who was placed under house arrest last Tuesday, for allegedly causing the shipwreck by sailing too close to the island shore.
Rory Browne, who was on his first cruise holiday, praised some crew members but felt that not enough calm heads prevailed in the emergency situation.
“Some individual crew members worked quite well in the trying circumstances and panic that ensued,” he told The Mayo News. “It took a few hours before the ship tilted a significant amount. I believed that everyone was going to get off the ship safely. I am shocked there were fatalities. Everyone could have got off that ship alive if they had stayed calm.
“Not to underplay the tragic aspect but Costa would want to learn from this tragedy. The issue around the lifeboats remains central to the whole process. They must ensure that all the lifeboats work in a listing ship. You need lifeboats when things go wrong. They need to work in the most awful of circumstances. I would go with them again if they come back with a credible response,” he said.
Despite the ordeal, Mr Browne has already booked another cruise with a different company in April. He was not even eight hours on his first cruise ship when disaster struck.
He boarded the ship at around 2pm after earlier arriving at Rome Airport from Dublin. The ship set sail at around 5pm and Rory went to sleep in his cabin. He can be grateful that he read the safety literature before going to sleep. At 9.40pm he was woken with a thud.
“I was not aware at the time of the impact that we had struck rocks at all,” he explained. “I thought it was some kind of manoeuvre they were undertaking. I did fall towards the mirror with the jolt. Having read some of the literature in the cabin earlier, including some relating to an emergency, I realised that something was wrong when the seven whistles sounded on board the ship.
“The first message over the public address said the ship had encountered electrical problems. I decided to take a walk around. A lot of people had put on life jackets. It soon became clear that it was much more than an electrical fault. The ship began to list slightly.
“I managed to get off fairly soon. A lot of people were panicking and in a very excited state. They were some very traumatized. People had a single focus on an entrance to the lifeboats. It did occur to me there may not be enough lifeboats. My first thoughts were to keep calm and assess the situation. I noticed one of the lifeboats had a second entrance that very few noticed and I went to that and managed to get on. There was still room for a lot more, at least ten and maybe 25. It just took a few minutes to the shore,” he added.
Rory paid tribute to the staff at the Irish Embassy in Rome for their ‘courtesy and professionalism’, adding that ‘they were a huge support in the circumstances’.
Rory’s mother, Bridget Moran, said she was unaware of the unfolding drama when Rory contacted her after he was safely back on shore.
“I had left him at Dublin Airport around 4am on the Friday morning, January 13. He contacted me some hours later to say he had arrived in Rome. I stopped worrying about planes and trains at that stage, presuming he was completely safe on the ship.
“When he texted me around 10.30pm to say the ship had struck rocks but that he was safe and back on land, it was a big shock but also a great relief that he was okay,” she said.
In a remarkable coincidence, a cousin of Bridget’s husband Gerard was on board the Titanic which sunk 100 years ago this April. He came from near Clonbur and also survived the sinking.
Rory, who came to Mayo from Donegal at the age of nine, spent some years in Cong National School and later five years in Ballinrobe Secondary School, has been working with AmazonIreland.ie in Dublin for the last four years.
Investigations are still ongoing while an operation to remove 500,000 gallons of fuel from the damage vessel may commence today. Italian search teams are still trying to locate the missing  passengers.