Passenger: "No Leadership" on Cruise Ship

A Southern California family describes what happened after the Costa Concordia began listing

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Georgia Ananias was aboard a cruise ship with her family when it ran aground off Tuscany.

    Members of a Southern California family were among the last to escape a cruise ship that ran aground Friday night in a reef off Tuscany.

    On the TODAY Show Monday (scroll down for video), the family recounted the chaotic hours that ensued after the ship began listing.

    "There was absolutely no leadership," said passenger Georgia Ananias, one of four LA family members aboard the Costa Concordia. "There was no direction. There were no officers available. Everybody was one man for themselves. People did not know how to do anything."

    Her husband, Dean Ananias, described harrowing moments after the ship turned on its side.

    "We were actually walking on the outside walls on top of the ship," he told TODAY. "We walked along where the windows were and eventually, with help from some others, we had to crawl along."

    They used ropes dangling outside the ship to lower themselves to safety, Dean Ananias said. The family said about five hours passed from the time they sensed something was wrong to the time they reached safety.

    "Five hours of struggling while this ship is sinking, trying to go against gravity trying to pull ourselves up," said Georgia Ananias. "Trying to get away from breaking glass, bodies flying."

    In a statement, the company said, "In handling the emergency, the captain appeared not to have followed standard Costa procedures, however it is becoming clear the crew... acted swiftly and bravely."

    That contrasts with the account from Georgia Ananias, who said she has been on about 75 cruises. Family members initially tried to board a lifeboat, but no one knew how to operate the vessel, she said. She then sought higher ground atop a stairway banister, and members of a family from Argentina -- who had been in the lifeboat with her -- tried to hand her their baby.

    "We were trying to get to the banister to get as high as we could," Georgia Ananias said. "They turned to me and said, 'Take my baby,'" she said. "I held on to the baby as long as I could. The ship kept going back and sinking more. I was afraid I would lose balance and fall down the banister. I would love to know if they survived."

    A sixth body was found during the overnight search. Two Americans, still reported missing early Monday, were identified as a couple from Minnesota.

    About 4,200 people were on the ship when it ran aground. The captain made an unauthorized deviation from the ship's programmed course that led to the grounding, according to Costa Crociere chairman and CEO Pier Luigi Foschi.

    Costa ships have their routes programmed, and alarms go off when they deviate, the chief executive said in a press conference.

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