Relatives of the 32 victims of the Costa Concordia shipwreck, aboard a ferry approach the ship
Survivors of the Costa Concordia shipwreck and relatives of the 32 people who died marked the first anniversary of the grounding Sunday with the unveiling of memorials to the victims, a Mass in their honour and a minute of silence to recall the exact moment that the cruise ship rammed into a reef off Tuscany.
The first event of Sunday's daylong commemoration was the return to the sea of part of the massive rock that tore a 70-meter (230-foot) gash into the hull of the ocean liner on Jan. 13, 2012. The boulder remained embedded in the mangled steel as the 112,000-ton vessel capsized along with its 4,200 passengers and crew.
As fog horns wailed, a crane on a tug lowered the boulder onto the reef off Giglio, returning it to the seabed affixed with a memorial plaque. Relatives of the dead threw flowers into the sea and embraced as they watched the ceremony from a special ferry that bobbed in the waves under a slate gray sky, reports The Associated Press.
A land-based memorial was being unveiled after a Mass and ceremony honouring rescue crews. A minute of silence was scheduled for 9:45 p.m., the exact moment when the Concordia slammed into the reef after the captain took the ship off course in a stunt to bring it closer to Giglio.
The captain, Francesco Schettino, is accused of multiple manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and leaving the ship before all passengers were evacuated. He hasn't been charged but is living under court-ordered restrictions pending a decision on whether to indict him. Schettino maintains he saved lives by bringing the ship closer to shore rather than letting it sink in the open sea, and claims the reef he hit wasn't on his nautical charts.
In an interview broadcast Sunday with RAI state television, Schettino again defended his actions and said he wanted to "share in the pain of all the victims and the families of the victims."
Taking part in the anniversary commemoration was Capt. Gregorio De Falco of the Italian coast guard, who became something of a hero to survivors after his recorded conversations with Schettino during the evacuation were made public. In them, De Falco excoriated Schettino for having abandoned the ship before all passengers were off and ordered him to return, shouting the now-infamous order "Go on board (expletive)!"
De Falco said he wanted to go to Giglio to "embrace the victims, and the relatives of the victims." De Falco, who has shied from all media attention since the disaster, said he did so out of respect for the victims.
"I'm not a hero," he told reporters in Giglio on Sunday. "I just did my job."