ROME (AP) — The first victim from the Costa Concordia disaster was identified Wednesday — a 38-year-old violinist from Hungary who had been working as an entertainer on the stricken cruise ship.
Sandor Feher’s body was found inside the wreck and identified by his mother, who had traveled to the Italian city of Grosseto, according to Hungary’s Foreign Ministry.
The $450 million Costa Concordia cruise ship was carrying more than 4,200 passengers and crew when it slammed into a reef and flopped on its side Friday off the tiny Italian island of Giglio after the captain made an unauthorized detour on his route.
Eleven people have been confirmed dead so far, but the number of missing dropped to 21 Wednesday after a German passenger who was listed as missing was found alive back in Germany, the Grosseto prefect’s office reported. Italian officials have released only 27 names so far, including 12 Germans; six Italians; four French citizens; two Americans; and one person each from Hungary, India and Peru.
Jozsef Balog, a pianist who worked with Mr. Feher on the ship, told the Blikk newspaper that Mr. Feher was wearing a life jacket when he decided to return to his cabin to pack his violin. Mr. Feher last was seen on deck en route to the area where he was supposed to board a lifeboat.
According to Mr. Balog, Mr. Feher helped put life jackets on several crying children before returning to his cabin.
Others among the missing included a 5-year-old Italian girl and her father, an American couple from Minnesota, several German retirees, and crew members from Peru and India.
Jerry and Barbara Heil of White Bear Lake, Minn., were described by colleagues as devout Catholics. Sarah Heil, their daughter, told WBBM radio in Chicago that her parents had been looking forward to their 16-day vacation after raising four kids and sending them all off to college.
“They never had any money,” Sarah Heil said. “So when they retired, they went traveling, and this was to be a big deal — a 16-day trip. They were really excited about it.”
Italian rescue workers, meanwhile, suspended operations early Wednesday after the cruise ship shifted slightly on the rocks near the Tuscan coast, creating deep concerns about the safety of divers and firefighters searching for the missing. Instruments attached to the ship detected the movements, even though firefighters who spent the night searching the area for the missing could not.
“As a precautionary measure, we stopped the operations this morning, in order to verify the data we retrieved from our detectors, and understand if there actually was a movement, and if there has been one, how big,” said Coast Guard Cmdr. Filippo Marini.
By evening, officials still did not have enough data to reassure them that the ship had stopped resettling. The latest victims — five adults — were discovered Tuesday after navy divers exploded holes in the hull of the ship to allow easier access.
Concordia passengers from around the world were still making their way home, with consistent claims that crew members were ill-prepared to handle an emergency evacuation.
“The crew members had no specialized training — the security man doubled as the cook and bartender, so obviously they did not know what to do,” passenger Claudia Fehlandt told Chile’s Channel 7 television after being embraced by relatives at Santiago’s airport.
“In fact, the lifeboats, even the ones that did get lowered, they did not know how to lower them, and they cut the ropes with axes,” she said.