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Shipwreck woman launches action against cruise company

A BRITISH expat caught up in events on stricken cruise ship the Costa Concordia is launching legal action against the company that owns the stricken liner, her lawyers have said.

Sandra Rodgers, 62, was on board with her daughter and seven-year-old twin granddaughters when it ran into a reef and capsized off the Tuscan island of Giglio last Friday.

Mrs Rodgers, who now lives in Menorca, was not only separated from her daughter Karen, 39, and grandchildren Emma and Chloe, but also lost her late husband's ashes - which she was planning to scatter during the trip - as she battled on to a lifeboat.

Mrs Rodgers, originally from Caergwrle, Chester said: "The evacuation of the ship was completely chaotic. There was certainly no 'women and children first' policy. It was disgusting."

Mrs Rodgers said they were told by the crew that there was a simply a technical problem, and were also instructed to go back to their cabin.

"Thank God we didn't do as they had told us as we may not have made it off the ship alive," she said.

"I was standing by the lifeboats and men were banging into me and knocking the girls. And when we finally got into a lifeboat, other passengers and crew were also trying to jump into the boat.

"I thought 'if they land in here we are going to capsize'."

She said it was only when they got on to the island that they got help from the islanders themselves, adding: "There were no emergency services and the cruise staff had all disappeared. The people of the island were a God-send."

Mrs Rodgers said they had taken the trip to lift their spirits after both her husband Barry and her father died last year.

"We had planned to scatter Barry's ashes when the cruise passed Monaco, because Barry had always wanted to see the Monaco Grand Prix.

"It's dreadful but his ashes were lost on board the Concordia as well as other family heirlooms from my late mother and father.

"We have lost so many things that are quite literally priceless. The girls are also now too afraid to be left alone. We have all been deeply affected by what has happened and I also injured my arm during the evacuation of the ship and have had to have medical treatment in Menorca."

She is among a number of people being represented by law firm Irwin Mitchell.

Clive Garner, partner and head of the company's international law team, said they are continuing to receive inquiries from a growing number of passengers from both the UK and abroad.

"They have clearly been through a terrifying and most traumatic experience and one which may have long lasting effects for them.

"With thousands of people on board this huge vessel, the safety of passengers should have been the first and only priority.

"Tragically, our clients confirm that this was not the case and passengers and their families have paid a very heavy price.

"The running aground of the Costa Concordia was terrible enough but this was compounded by the woeful management of the evacuation of the vessel.

"As well as the official investigation we are working with colleagues in Italy and maritime safety experts to understand exactly how the Costa Concordia came to run aground."

"On the evidence currently available there appear to have been a number of serious errors of judgment on the part of the captain, while faults with the sonar and navigation equipment also cannot be ruled out at this stage.

"Following formal notification of our clients' claims to the cruise line we hope to engage them in early discussions but if this proves unsuccessful, legal proceedings will follow."

The search of the stricken ship, which was carrying 4,200 passengers and crew, has reportedly been suspended after it slipped again - 11 people have so far been confirmed dead and 21 remain missing.

Captain Francesco Schettino, who made an unauthorised diversion from his programmed route, has been placed under house arrest and faces possible charges of manslaughter causing a shipwreck and abandoning his ship.

But Moldovan woman Domnica Cemortan, who says she was called to the bridge of the ship to help evacuate Russian passengers, has defended the captain, saying he worked tirelessly and "saved over 3,000 lives".

At a briefing in London yesterday, the cruise industry sought to reassure concerned members of the public about the safety of ships, stressing safety is the number one priority of cruises.

Costa Cruises has confirmed it is contacting all surviving guests to make sure they have returned home safely and to offer a refund for the cruise and all expenses relating to it.

PA Media