After 20 months, Mumbai family hopes to lay Costa Concordia sailor to rest

Sep 27, 2013, 06:30 IST | Vinod Kumar Menon

Following two skeletons being discovered on the wrecked ship yesterday, the Rebello family is hoping to get some kind of closure; Russel, who was a cruise waiter, is one of the two people missing after the ship ran aground on Jan 13, 2012

The news of divers finding human remains at the sea site where the Costa Concordia ran aground has made parents of Russel Rebello anxious. It also brings hope of closure for the family that has been living in a constant state of doubt.

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On Thursday, a week after the sunken ship was hauled upright, Italian divers found human remains in the twisted hulk of the luxury ship, which hit a rock and sank off the coast of Tuscany on January 13, 2012.

The remains are, perhaps, the best clue to solving the puzzle of the two passengers -- Russel Rebello, a 32-year-old waiter on the ship, and Maria Grazia Tricarichi -- who were never found after the liner slammed into rocks.

Another long wait: Russel’s parents and wife wait for the DNA reports after divers found two skeletons aboard the ship.

Speaking to MiD DAY from Giglio, Kevin said, “I was just informed by the Civil Protection officials about spotting two skeletons on the fourth deck of the ship and that efforts were being made to pull out the remains. I have informed my mother and she broke into tears. I could not speak to her much. I even informed Vikram (Russel’s brother-in-law).”

Kevin with salvage operation master Nicholas Sloane after the ship was hauled upright last week

Kevin added, “I have made over 15 visits and even stayed on the island for nearly four months since the incident occurred 20 months ago. The people on the island have witnessed my patience, my agony and my helplessness. Just today, I was to fly to Germany to attend a business convention but I was informed of the remains being found.” 

Kevin added that he was sure that the remains were Russel’s, as eyewitnesses had said he was last spotted on the fourth deck.

He said he felt that Russel, who helped passengers into lifeboats and gave away his life jacket to another passenger, might have spotted Maria and tried to save her.

He added that his brother’s widow Wilma and their five-year-old son were waiting anxiously in Mumbai for confirmation.

The air is thick with anxiety at the ground-floor residence of Russel’s parents at Oasis Park in Naigaon. When Gladys, Russel’s mother, was informed by Kevin about the findings, she couldn’t hold back the tears.

“Kevin called me up a few minutes ago and informed me that the divers had found some remains on the cruise. I am desperate to know about Russel. This brings back painful memories for us,” said an emotional Gladys.

“We were slowly moving back to our normal lives and this piece of information has reopened the wounds for us. We are forced to accept the reality that there is no hope to get Russel back,” said a weeping Vikram Pinto, Russel’s brother-in-law.

Bringing him home
Kevin explained, “The military police in charge of the investigation has already taken my DNA samples and those of Maria’s. They would be matched with the remains. The entire process would take at least a few weeks.”

Kevin will start a dialogue with the Indian High Commission to complete formalities to get Russel’s remains back home so that he and his family can lay him to rest.

14,500 tonne
The weight of the vessel

The number of people who died when the ship ran aground in January 2012

The number of passengers aboard the ship

The number of men working on the salvage operations

19 hours
The amount of time taken to make the ship upright

$800 million
The amount it took to turn the ship upright earlier this month – the most expensive maritime salvage operation ever

‘Miraculous find’
Divers found the human remains in the twisted hulk of the Costa Concordia luxury ship. DNA tests will be conducted following Thursday’s discovery, according to the head of Italy’s civil protection agency. The grisly find occurred one week after the doomed ship was finally righted by engineers. “During a search in the water near the central part of the ship, coast guard and police divers found remains which still have to be identified with DNA,” Italy’s civil protection agency said in a statement on Thursday.

The agency’s head, Franco Gabrielli, reaffirmed that further tests were needed but told reporters the remains were ‘absolutely consistent’ with the two missing people. Recovering the remains after 20 months under the weight of the cruise ship was ‘almost a miracle,’ Gabrielli said.

The other missing woman
Maria Grazia Tricarichi, a passenger from Sicily, was celebrating her 50th birthday with her daughter and a friend on the ship. Her body has also been missing since the tragedy struck the ship.

Maria Grazia

Her husband Elio Vincenzi had said the successful operation to lift the ship had given him new hope of closure. He said: “I am quite optimistic. In a phone call she made on the night she gave indications that she was about to get into a boat. If she’s not there I pray they find her somewhere else. I need to cut the cord.” Vincenzi was accompanied by his daughter Stefania, who is competing in the Miss Italia pageant in memory of her mother.

Salvage operations
Engineers rotated the ship back to vertical last week after it rested 20 months on its side, in a complex 19-hour operation being described as the most expensive salvage operation. The unprecedented maneuver, called parbuckling, exposed a twisted mass of metal dotted with mattresses, passenger luggage and deck chairs on the ship's previously submerged starboard side.

Captain faces manslaughter charges
Francesco Schettino, the captain of the sunken ship, 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 Monday in Grosseto. 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. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in jail.
-- Agencies

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