Happy homecoming for Costa crewmembers

Among their families' exclamations of relief and gratitude was the distinct note of anger with the captain who abandoned his ship and crew; many shaken crewmembers decided to reconsider sailing altogether

Last evening, scenes of joyful reunions caught the eye at the Mumbai international airport, as batches of the 200 Indian crewmembers aboard the wrecked Italian luxury liner, Costa Concordia, returned home safely. More will arrive today.

Together again: (Above) Sapna Singh, assistant waiter on the ship,
was overjoyed to see her husband and one-year-old baby at the
international airport yesterday

Though happy and relieved, their families, who were waiting in distressing anxiety to see their dear ones safe again, are angry with the captain of the ship, Francesco Schettino, who abandoned his boat and left the passengers and the crew to fend for themselves. Some crewmembers are reconsidering being sailors.

Bharat Paithankar, assistant bartender aboard the cruise and the penultimate man to leave the ship, said, "The lifeboats on the side of the ship that keeled over were inaccessible and useless. There were 4,000 passengers, including 1,100 crewmembers, aboard. My fellow shipmates started evacuating the people on board. After that, I wore a lifejacket, took God's name, and jumped into the sea. I survived, but three of my fellow crewmembers, who were evacuating the passengers with me, did not. My friend Russel Rebello is still missing."

Bharat's wife Narmada said, "These five days were hell for me but I had to keep smiling for my 4-year-old twin kids. I feel the captain of the ship should have been more responsible to the people on board." Said Bharat, "For the next four months, I will stay at home and decide whether to pursue my career at sea."

Hope floats
Rahul Raghav, a bartender aboard the ill-fated cruise liner, said, "When the ship tilted to its side, water started gushing in and I thought there was no chance that I would make it out of there alive. I called up my parents to tell them about the sinking ship. My father asked me to have faith in God, to keep my calm and think of a way to be safe."

Rahul's father, Satish, an ex-navy man, said, "When my son called me at 3.45 am on Saturday, we were fast asleep. I was shattered when he gave me the news. But I asked him not to get carried away in the panic and think about what could be done to come out of the situation. Now that he, our only son, is back, we will never let him go to work at sea again."

Rahul Raghav, a bartender aboard the ill-fated cruise liner, meets his
parents at the airport. Pics/Sameer Markande

His mother said, "I am disappointed and angry with the captain who left the ship before ensuring that his crewmembers were safe. He should have chosen his professional responsibility over his personal safety," said Renu Raghav.

John Pinto, whose 28-year-old son Patrick was aboard the ship, said, "We were completely shattered but our son assured us that he would be back with us by the grace of God. The captain should have heeded his duty."
Mobin Shaikh, who worked in the restaurant, said, "It will be a while before I can come out of the trauma." Sapna Singh, assistant waiter on the ship, said, "I was more worried for my one-year-old baby back home."

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