ROME — An Italian dad and his 5-year-old daughter. A retired American couple treating themselves after putting four children through college. A Hungarian musician who helped crying children into lifejackets, then disappeared while trying to retrieve his beloved violin from his cabin.
As details emerged Wednesday about the missing and the dead in the grounding of the Costa Concordia, the captain was quoted as saying he tripped and fell into the water from the listing vessel and never intended to abandon his passengers.
The search for the 21 people still unaccounted for in the disaster ground to a halt after the cruise liner shifted again on its rocky perch off the Tuscan island of Giglio, making it too dangerous for divers to continue. Rough seas were forecast for the next few days.
The bad weather also postponed the start of the weekslong operation to extract the half-million gallons of fuel on board the vessel, as Italy's environment minister warned Parliament of the ecological implications if the ship sinks.
The $450 million Costa Concordia was carrying more than 4,200 passengers and crew when it slammed into a reef and capsized Friday after the captain made an unauthorized diversion from his programmed route and strayed into the perilous waters.
Capt. Francesco Schettino, who was jailed after he left the ship before everyone was safely evacuated, was placed under house arrest Tuesday, facing possible charges of manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning his ship.
The ship's operator, Crociere Costa SpA, has accused Schettino of causing the wreck by making the unapproved detour, and the captain has acknowledged carrying out what he called a "tourist navigation" that brought the ship closer to Giglio. Costa has said such a navigational "fly by" was done last Aug. 9-10, after being approved by the company and Giglio port authorities.
However, Lloyd's List Intelligence, a leading maritime publication, said Wednesday its tracking of the ship's August route showed it actually took the Concordia slightly closer to Giglio than the course that caused Friday's disaster.
"This is not a black-and-white case," Richard Meade, editor of Lloyd's List, said in a statement.
"Our data suggests that both routes took the vessel within 200 meters (yards) of the impact point and that the authorized route was actually closer to shore."
New audio of Schettino's communications with the coast guard during the crisis emerged Wednesday, with the captain claiming he ended up in a life raft after he tripped and fell into the water.
"I did not abandon a ship with 100 people on board, the ship suddenly listed and we were thrown into the water," Schettino said, according to a transcript published Wednesday in the Corriere della Sera paper.
Initial audio of Schettino's conversations made headlines on Tuesday, showing an increasingly exasperated coast guard officer ordering Schettino back on board to direct the evacuation, and the captain resisting, saying it was too dark and the ship was tipping.
The officer's order, "Get back on board, (expletive!)" has entered the Italian lexicon, becoming a Twitter hashtag and adorning T-shirts.
Eleven people have been confirmed dead so far, and 21 are missing.