Once again the Costa Concordia tragedy shows us part of the human experience is to feel the pain and the loss of others as though it were our own.
As a maritime physician - in laymenís terms a cruise ship doctor - I have watched the news weíve seen from Italy with interest and regret. Reports tell us Capt. Francesco Schettino was one of the first people to abandon ship. Of course, weíre all asking how a trained professional could do such a thing. But as someone who works in the industry, I canít help but also wonder:
- Where was the rest of the shipís command? There are always people who can take over leadership if the captain is not aboard or in some way incapacitated. Why havenít we heard from, or about, them?
- Why was there confusion regarding who was on board? In my experience, ships can't come into or leave port without a manifest signed by the captain and me (the ship doctor), confirming exactly how many souls are present.
- How did all the usual precautions fail? Whenever a ship is moving, there are always several crew members using radar or sonar instruments to determine where the boat is headed.
As many have noted, without a captainís leadership the crew and guests were left to their own ingenuity to escape. Watching the first reports, it was obvious to me that most of the lifeboats and rafts on the port side of the boat, that is the left side, been deployed. One could assume this meant the same for the right, or starboard side. To launch that many boats, at least a couple of hundred deck engineers would have had to stayed on board and tended to their responsibilities.
Why have we not heard from them?
The cruise industry is notoriously tight-lipped and it comes as no surprise to me that weíve seen few interviews with the crew so far. But in the coming weeks, I expect many individual stories come to light. In any panic situation there are always some that will turn from their responsibility Ė but letís remember there are also those who stay. We need to hear their stories, too.
Dr. James L. Jones, Miami, Florida