A cruise aboard the Costa Concordia was Nicole Servel's 60th-birthday gift from her children. But Servel's husband, Francis, gave her the gift of life. Before the ship crashed on the rocks off the coast of Italy, he gave her the couple's only life jacket. Francis died. But Nicole, who couldn't swim, survived.
According to Emirates247.com, the widow of the sacrificing Frenchman told RTL radio, "I owe my life to my husband."
Just hours into a Mediterranean cruise, the Italian luxury liner hit rocks. Passengers were told to abandon ship; survivors told various news organizations it was quickly every man for himself. CNN reported that the scene was chaotic, with "a frantic rush by passengers to get on lifeboats, while the crew appeared helpless and overwhelmed to cope."
Servel's husband told his wife to "jump, jump!" and added, "Don't worry, I'll be all right." She didn't see him again. The Toulouse native floated on her back in the frigid, 8-degree water until she washed up on rocks and was rescued by local villagers.
Forty-two hundred passengers were aboard the doomed ship, and stories of the survivors are now emerging. A South Korean couple narrowly escaped death late on Saturday when rescuers heard their voices, coming from a cabin two decks down on the half-submerged ship late. The newlyweds were on their honeymoon. The BBC reports that the couple, both 29, are in good health.
Shortly after the honeymooners were helped, an Italian crew member, Manrico Giampedroni, was found in the ship's wreckage with a serious leg injury. Following his cries for help, rescuers located the 57-year-old near a submerged part of the ship; he had been trapped there for 36 hours.
According to Italian news reports, Giampedroni had stayed behind to assist with the lifeboats, but when the ship began to lean, he fell and broke his leg. The senior crew member said he "never lost hope of being saved."
A massive search of every cabin is ongoing, with teams of divers deployed to check the underwater rooms. Police are investigating the nature of the accident, given the calm weather conditions during the crash. Evacuating the ship in life boats was made "almost impossible" because the ship listed to one side so quickly, the president of Costa Cruises noted.
See a clip of the Italian crew member being airlifted by helicopter.