The bodies of five people who died in the Costa Concordia tragedy on January 13 have been identified. After the bodies were found on March 20, their names were revealed on Tuesday: American couple Barbara and Gerald Heil of Minnesota; German couple Christina Mathi Ganz and Norbert Josef Ganz of Muehlheim am Main (who just celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary); and Italian crew member Giuseppe Girolamo. Their bodies had been taken to the Prefect’s office in Grosseto, a Tuscan town.
A total of 32 people died when the ship capsised, and two bodies still remain missing – an Italian passenger and Indian crewman. There were about 4,200 crew and passengers on the Concordia when the disaster happened. Divers are still searching for the missing bodies if sea and weather conditions permit.
John Heil, one of the American couple’s sons, said that the family wasn’t going to comment on the identification. However, the Heil family is reported by media to have said in a statement that they will be able to move forward now and bring the couple home to rest. The rescue and recovery team in Giglio have continued their mission to find the missing and gave them hope throughout the process. They can’t thank them enough for risking their lives to find their parents. They know their parents are together and happy, and they look forward to the day when they can all be together again.
The US Embassy in Rome declined to talk about plans for the couple’s remains to be transported, citing privacy concerns. However, in a message of condolence, the Embassy said on its website that they are grateful for the courage and skill of the Italian search teams, who worked to rescue and recover the bodies of victims. The entire Embassy extends its condolence to the Heil family and to the families and friends of all the victims lost in this tragedy.
In the Minnesota hometown where the Heils lived, friends have expressed relief that the couple’s bodies have been identified. They were active members of the local church, with Gerald visiting local woman Diane Vorland every Thursday to take communion and pray. Vorland, who is confined to a wheelchair, said on Tuesday that it’s good news the couple have been identified, and it should give the family closure. Gerald would also take local man Denny Hardy around town for errands after he lost his driver’s licence. Hardy says it’s nice to know the couple is safe in God’s hands now.
Costa Concordia captain Francesco Schettino has been under house arrest for nearly three months now. Prosecutors are investigating him and other officials from the ship and cruise operator Costa Cruises, which is a subsidiary of Carnival Cruise Lines. The captain is being charged with causing a shipwreck, abandoning ship before a full evacuation, and manslaughter.
The prosecutors say they suspect the captain of deliberately steering the Concordia too close to Giglio island for publicity, which he has claimed he was told to do by superiors. Captain Schettino also insists that the rock the ship hit wasn’t marked on his navigational charts and denies abandoning ship, claiming to have continued to direct the evacuation. However, audio between him and the Italian coast guard gives a different picture. The captain can be heard repeatedly refusing to follow orders from coast guard officials to return to the ship to help with the evacuation.
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