Back on January 13, 2012, the Costa Concordia was just another decadent luxury cruise liner carrying 4,200 vacationers, honeymooners, families and sightseers from the Italian port of Civitavecchia. But by the end of the night, the behemoth ship would be the scene of Italy's worst maritime disaster since WWII.
The initial mistake came mere hours after setting sail as Captain Francesco Schettino ordered the liner to sail close to the island of Giglio as a "salute." However, the ship was sailing too fast and too close to the shore and hit a rock, leaving a gash in the left-hand side and tilting the boat, flooding the engine rooms and losing power to the ship.
From this control room, Captain Schettino made some very poor judgement calls, briefly overseeing an evacuation process fraught with mistakes and chaos. The Italian government ultimately charged the acting captain with manslaughter and sentenced him to 16 years in prison.
After being repeatedly told by the captain and crew that the only problem was a blackout, passengers took things into their own hands and started calling the local Italian police. At this point, the captain finally called the Coast Guard for assistance, but much of the damage had already been done and precious time lost.
With the ship tilted at 80 degrees, survivors describe the scene like a movie; passenger Joan Fleser said "Dishes went flying. Waiters went flying all over. Glasses were flying. Exactly like the scene in Titanic."
By midnight, both the captain and his second master had abandoned ship, leaving some 300 passengers and crew remaining to fend for themselves. This, among his other blunders, eventually lead Captain Schettino to be arrested for abandoning ship. It's a wonder only 32 people died that night.
Of Schettino's controversial role in the matter, Coast Guard member Cosma Scaramella told Vanity Fair, "This...is an infamy. To abandon women and children, it's like a doctor who abandons his patients."
There are many amazing stories of survival and love from the night the Costa Concordia sunk.These images, however, are an unsettling reminder that disaster can strike at any time and leave behind eerie traces of our fragility.