Cruise ship escape described by honeymooning Briton
- 15 January 2012
- From the section UK
A honeymooning British couple on a cruise ship which ran aground off the Italian coast have described how they had to use a ladder to escape.
Ian and Janice Donoff climbed out on to the side of the stricken vessel after lifeboats failed to release because of the listing ship's angle.
They were eventually lowered down a rope ladder to awaiting life rafts.
At least 30 UK nationals were among the Costa Concordia's 4,000 passengers and crew when it hit a rock on Friday.
Three people have been confirmed as dead and around 40 people are still believed to be missing.
Most reached land by lifeboats but some swam ashore, or were airlifted from the vessel by coastguard, navy and air force helicopters.
A South Korean couple were found alive in a cabin more than 24 hours after the ship ran aground, and a third survivor has also been found in the ship, which is lying on its side 200m (650ft) off the holiday island of Giglio.
The first Britons caught up in the disaster are expected back on UK soil later on Sunday.
The British Ambassador to Italy, Christopher Prentice, has visited some of the survivors and told the BBC: "We have worked throughout the day with a team on the ground here and further teams deploying from London, with the Italian authorities.
"We're making good progress on the lists of those who we believe to have been involved, who were British.
"We're not yet in a position to confirm numbers or comment on the whereabouts and welfare of them all.
"But we are making good progress in establishing that so we'll continue until that work is complete."
He said he had spoken to some British survivors who he described as being "relieved, but worried about others".
Some are believed to have headed to Rome, where consular staff were working to provide emergency travel documents to replace passports abandoned in the ship's cabins.
Mr and Mrs Donoff were enjoying a magic show when the lights went off followed by an "incredible noise of scraping", and people started rushing out of the auditorium.
After reaching the ship's emergency meeting point, Mr Donoff said they boarded a lifeboat but then had to get out again because it could not be released.
He said: "Panic really got in. We realised we had to get out on to the side of the ship, which was now nearly 90 degrees.
"Somebody got the idea of getting a ladder so we could get out. And once we got out, rather precariously, we had to wait while the locals came out on their boats.
"And individually we had to go there on the side of the ship to be helped into the life raft that was there."
He added: "It's the most frightening thing coming down on a rope ladder by the whole side of the ship clutching on for dear life... it was an unbelievable ordeal."
A number of British entertainers and dancers were among the 1,000-strong crew.
Sandra Cook told BBC News that her daughter Kirsty, who was one of eight British dancers working on the ship, escaped by climbing down a rope ladder into another boat.
"I asked whether she had anything. She'd lost everything and she said that she was lucky to be alive and very thankful," said Mrs Cook, who spoke to her daughter earlier.
Philip Metcalf's daughter Rose was also working as a dancer on the ship. He explained that he had spoken to her and that she said she was one of the last to leave the stricken vessel.
"She obviously put her warm weather clothes on and just went through the routine of what they had to do, what was important - the talks and drills of going to the right place to take a check of the passengers to help them onto the boats.
"So they helped them onto the boats and obviously they must have run out of boats, and she was one of the last ones left on."
Anyone concerned about British passengers should contact either the British Embassy in Rome on 0039 06 4220 0001 or the Foreign Office in London on 0207 008 1500. The Foreign Office is offering advice on its website.