Vasai boy Jason D'Silva, a crew member at Costa Concordia, recalls his do-or-die decision as the ship started sinking; he didn't know then that he would live to tell his tale.
"Standing at the edge of the deck, I left everything in the hands of the Almighty, and just jumped," said Jason D'Silva. And the Almighty must have been listening, as it was this very leap of faith -- off the capsizing Italian cruise liner Costa Concordia and onto a teetering lifeboat tossing in the choppy waters -- that miraculously saved the crew member's life last Friday.
Mother's prayers finally answered: Jacinta thanks the Lord for her son's safety after she was informed that Jason (below) had survived the cruise liner capsizing
Jason spoke to MiD DAY from a hotel room in far-away Rome, where some of the crew members who survived the disaster have been accommodated.
Speedy return When the boat started sinking, it was a choice between hell and high water for the 26-year-old, who chose to take the plunge. Miraculously, he escaped the ordeal unscathed. "Till last evening, authorities were busy helping crew members -- who have been accommodated in the hotel near Rome airport -- get their documents in order, so they can speedily be returned to the familiar and comforting shores of their homeland. "Our photographs are being clicked and the documents are being readied," said Jason.
Jason's memories of the events leading up to the catastrophe are foggy. He said, "The passengers had just finished dinner, when we suddenly heard a deafening noise. I blanked out after that. I can only remember uttering a heartfelt prayer, and jumping off the deck."
The following morning, Jason managed to make a quick call to his childhood friend and fellow Vasai resident Pravin Machado.
In course of the conversation, he informed Machado that the lifeboat saved him and some fellow crew members to an island, where they were given shelter in a small church. "The locals who live near the church plied us with blankets and brought us breakfast the next morning," he is said to have told Machado.
Machado told MiD DAY, "I am acquainted with seven people who work in various departments on the cruise liner. My brother Lloyd D'Cunha was also sheltered in the church with Jason that fateful night. We were paralysed with fear when we could not establish contact with Lloyd all of Friday night. He only managed to call us the next morning, after he reached the church." Lloyd had providentially managed to retain his mobile phone through the jump and the rocky boat ride that followed, and could call thus home.
Jason's childhood friend Pravin Machado was the first person that Jason informed of his survival after he jumped off the ship. Pics/Pramod Dethe
"Jason told me that Russel Rebello, who is the only missing Indian from the ship, had taken a two-day-long sick leave, as he was suffering from a bad cold. "Jason faintly remembers seeing Russel on the deck, and urging him to jump into the lifeboat below," said Machado.
Tears flow free In a bid to earn some extra money, Jason left his job in a Dubai-based five-star hotel and joined the liner. This was Jason's first stint on the inscrutable and turbulent seas.
Jacinta, Jason's mother, said, "My daughter-in-law told me on Saturday morning about the accident. I couldn't stop my tears. I felt that I had lost everything to the sea."
Unable to deal with the anxiety and uncertainty, Jacinta required medical attention. Her equanimity was restored after an agonising wait on Saturday afternoon, when her beloved son called home. "He could only speak to me for a minute, as he was calling from someone else's phone. He told me that he was safe and unhurt, and would return home soon," said the worried mother.
Jason's father Menvel -- who suffered a paralytic stroke a year ago -- is bed-ridden. It was only recently that Jason got engaged to his long-time girlfriend Georgina, who is from the Philippines. The two had met in Dubai.
According to Jason's relatives, the crew members are being paid about 100 euros a day to sustain themselves. Not all survivors have managed to leave the island, however. "Lloyd told me that he hasn't yet been shifted to the hotel in Rome, as the crew from the engine and deck department have been kept back for questioning," said Machado.
Apart from Jason and Lloyd, four other crew members of the ship hail from Vasai -- Clerence Gavankar, Alister Nunes, Bryan and Brinjoy Lopes.
Machado said, "Initially, the Lopes brothers were not traceable. When we spoke to them this morning, they said that they had to swim through the seawaters to reach a small island, from where they were shifted to the mainland."
Late last night, Gavankar's family members were informed that he and two other crew members were likely to return to Mumbai today.