x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Stricken cruise liner survivor recalls 'near-death experience'

Former Dubai hotel supervisor who was on the ill-fated Costa Concordia when the liner capsized off Italy says he felt 'like I was seeing death really close'.

DUBAI // A former Dubai hotel supervisor who was on the ill-fated Costa Concordia when the cruise liner slammed into a reef last week off the tiny Italian island of Giglio has remembered the event as a near-death experience.

Water quickly filled the decks, including deck three, where he was in his cabin, he said.

“I felt like I was seeing death really close,” said Jason Manuel D’Silva, 26, a pool attendant on the ship that capsized last weekend off the west coast of Italy.

“I was in my cabin after my duty hours and was chatting with my friends when we suddenly heard a deafening noise. The ship started tilting and things were falling on us. We ran out of our room and came to the meeting point after the captain ordered to abandon the ship,” he said last night from the Courtyard Marriott Hotel in Rome, before boarding a flight this afternoon to India via Dubai.

“In half an hour, there was water everywhere. I was very scared and worried. I never imagined the ship would sink so quickly,” said the Indian national, who was among 1,000 other crew members aboard.

There were more than 4,200 passengers, including crew, at the time.

Italian divers and firefighters are still searching for the 22 people who went missing after the captain made an unauthorised
manoeuvre.

After the passengers had been evacuated, Mr D’Silva jumped on to one of the lifeboats.

“The only way out was to jump into a boat from the deck. The ship was sinking fast and all the luggages were falling over us and into the water,” he said, adding that he said a silent prayer after he safely reached shore.

Like many other sailors, he left all his belongings - including his passport and other identity papers - on the ship before abandoning it.

A colleague of Mr D’Silva said the crew was not sure whom to blame for the accident.

“We have heard reports that it was the captain’s fault,” said Gopal Karthik, also a pool attendant on the Costa Concordia.

“Until it is known for sure, we don’t want to blame him or anyone,” he added.

Mr D’Silva’s family is yet to come to terms with his experience.

“My mother is still in shock. They are very anxious about my return,” he said.

Mr D’Silva joined the cruise company in September last year after working at the Habtoor Grand Beach Resort and Spa in Dubai Marina - first as a waiter and then as a supervisor in the food and beverage section - for over five years.

He quit the hotel job in Dubai in December 2010 and returned home.

Eights months later, he took up his first ship assignment on the Costa Concordia.

“I liked Dubai,” he said. “But I wanted to see the world, and I thought working on a ship was the best way to do that. But, after
this incident, I am not sure if I will return to working on the sea.

If I get a good opportunity, I will consider coming back to work in the emirate.”

Yesterday, a former co-worker of Mr D’Silva in Dubai said he was glad his friend had escaped alive.

“I am happy he is safe,” said Baba Rafileen Preena, a banquet manager at the Habtoor Grand hotel. “I didn’t know he was on the
Costa Concordia. He quit his job to work on a ship. If he wants to come back, we are happy hire him again.”

Mr Preena said he remembered Mr D’Silva as a friendly and good worker.

The sailors from the sunken ship were scheduled to transit through the Dubai International Airport early Friday morning before reaching Mr D’Silva’s hometown, Mumbai.

The Indian embassy in Rome is facilitating the travel of the 200 Indian crew members. “The first batch of 85 sailors have already left for India,” Mr Vishwesh Negi, the first secretary, said. “The final batch of 115 will leave this afternoon,” he said.

The men have received five months of their basic salary and tickets to return home.

pkannan@thenational.ae