- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 17, 2012

ROME (AP) — The remains of elderly American and German couples who died when the Costa Concordia cruise ship capsized near a Tuscan island have been identified, several weeks after the bodies were found in the wreckage of the vessel, Italian authorities said Tuesday.

The prefect’s office in the Tuscan town of Grosseto, where the bodies were taken, also announced the identification of a fifth body, that of an Italian crewman from aboard the Italian luxury liner, which struck a reef off the island of Giglio on Jan. 13 and capsized. Thirty-two people died, including two people whose bodies still haven’t been found.

The two U.S. victims — the only Americans who died in the accident — were identified as Barbara and Gerald Heil of White Bear Lake, Minn. Also identified were Christina Mathi Ganz and Norbert Josef Ganz of Muehlheim am Main, Germany, and Giuseppe Girolamo, the crew member. The German couple had just celebrated their golden wedding anniversary.

John Heil, a son of the U.S. couple, said the family was declining to say anything about the identification when contacted by phone by the Associated Press. The U.S. Embassy in Rome, citing privacy concerns, declined to discuss plans for the transport of the Heils’ remains.

Weather and sea conditions permitting, divers have been searching for the last missing passenger, an Italian woman, and an Indian crewman. Both are presumed dead.

The Italian captain of the Concordia is under house arrest in his home near Naples while prosecutors investigate him and other ship and cruise line officials. Capt. Francesco Schettino is being investigated for alleged manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning the ship before all the 4,200 passengers and crew aboard were evacuated.

Prosecutors have said that the suspect the captain deliberately steered his ship too close to Giglio island in a publicity stunt. The Concordia’s hull was gashed by the rocky reef. Capt. Schettino insists the reef wasn’t marked on the ship’s navigational charts and denies that he abandoned ship, saying he continued to direct the evacuation.

In audio registrations between Capt. Schettino and Italian coast guard officials, the captain appears repeatedly to resist pleas to go back aboard the ship and help carry out the evacuation.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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