Brian Aho said, "First we heard a tremendous vibration and then almost like an explosion, really. It was that loud." He described the dishes on their table sliding as he "chased" his food. Dishes, glasses, and food went flying everywhere and the lights turned off. Shortly after, panic ensued. The announcement was sent out over the loudspeakers to ease Brian, his family, and the thousands of passengers on board. They said it was merely "an electrical problem," but as the ship started to list, or tilt due to a breach of water, they knew it was more than that.
Joan Flaser said, "They kept saying go back to your cabins," but because they were experienced cruisers they knew to head straight for the upper deck where the lifeboats were. Anguished wails, screams, and confusion filled their ears as they made their way up top. People were walking "drunk-like" due to the slanted angle of the ships' floors. The challenging walk was finally accomplished as they made their way up onto the chaotic deck. Joan and her family were shocked to see the animal-like survival instincts of her fellow passengers as a frenzy of "yelling, screaming, pushing-- little children being crushed. It was so scary."
Quickly, Brian looked around for life jackets and found three, giving them to his family. Three ended up not being enough as a frantic passenger reached for Joan's jacket and "literally ripped it in half" as she recalls. They managed to find another jacket and pushed forward towards the lifeboats. Alana Aho was helping children avoid being trampled and even switched life jackets with a child who was wearing an overgrown one. Joan and Brian said they are very proud of their daughter's bravery. But Alana almost didn't make it into the lifeboat. Joan went first, Brian next, but Alana was still onboard. A passenger was trying to push and elbow his way past her onto the lifeboat. Joan was in eye-view of the passenger's feet from the lifeboat and grabbed her daughter by the ankles and pulled her aboard. They describe the entire event as being very lucky because right after Alana was in the boat, they departed.
Brian describes the terror even as they were on the lifeboats sailing toward Giglio. The massive behemoth of the 100,000 ton ship leering down on them made Aho feel like it was going to fall down onto their tiny boat. But the terror passed as they made it onto the island. They had expected to be assisted and relieved by Costa but there was no one. Being safely off the doomed cruise line was a start, but the family all were thinking the same thing. "Where do we go now?"
That answer will be explained as Eyewitness News brings you the conclusion to our two part series. Tune in to Nightmare at Sea: Onboard the Costa Concordia. We'll tell you how Brian, Joan, and Alana made their way from the doomed cruise-line, off the island, and back home to the small hometown of Duanesburg NY.
-Special Contribution by Justin Parkinson and Keith Rubino