Kevin’s Puzzle

Coast Guard Boat passing in front of capsized Costa Concordia Cruise Liner. Freeze Frame of APTN footage shot by Oleg Cetinic

Note to Blog Readers:

For the past four days I have been on the Island of Giglio covering the aftermath of the devastating shipwreck of the Costa Concordia Cruise Liner for Associated Press Television News. As of today (Monday, January 23, 2012) there are 13 dead and 19 missing. Today I want to tell the story of one person I met there whose courage and strength are inspiring.

Kevin Rebello is an energetic, wiry young man who is on a mission to find his brother. He says it is a puzzle that he has put together with one piece missing. The puzzle is what happened to his 33-year-old brother Russel on the night of the shipwreck. Russel, who has a wife and a three-year-old son back in Mumbai, worked as a waiter on the Costa Concordia and is among the 19 people missing.

Kevin Rebello checking for messages about his brother Russel. Freeze frame of APTN footage shot by Oleg Cetinic.

I met Kevin at the restaurant/bar of the Hotel La Lucciola in Porto Santo Stefano, an hour’s ferry ride away from Giglio Island. Kevin had his computer with him and he was reading messages and collecting information. From the first days he decided he wasn’t going to wait for search and rescue teams to try to figure out where his brother was, he would do that part for them. He opened up a facebook page (KevinRebelloRussel) and called on all crew members and passengers to try and remember when they saw Russel. This is what Kevin explained to me:

“So it is like a puzzle you know. I mixed up all the pieces that were given to me by his friends who were there on board that night who gave me their information, where he was, what he was doing, what he was wearing, where he was supposed to be and what he did after that. Until his last step, I know everything that has happened to him.”

Everyday Kevin and other relatives of the missing passengers go over to Giglio Island for a meeting with the search and rescue teams. Kevin said the first time he met with them, he spent an hour briefing them on the exact places on the ship where they should be looking for his brother. He said they were grateful for the extra information because the ship is huge and divers are having great difficulty underwater because of the dark.

As one diver explained to me they were going deep into the ship attached to a rope so they could find their way out: “You could see only a half-meter from your nose, so exploring is very limited…. it was a very dangerous situation because there were glass lamps on their sides, lamps that had been on the ceiling, and there were glass doors overhead and the ship was filled with upside down furniture, so it was really dangerous.” An additional danger was the movement of the ship.  While I was there, firefighters slid down on ropes from helicopters to attach special antennas to the ship to measure how much it was moving. The ship is perched precariously on a ledge and risks sliding off.  Divers told me it would probably be easier to explore the entire ship if it were at the bottom.

 

Photo of Russel Rebello, Missing Crew member from Costa Concordia. Freeze Frame of APTN video shot by Oleg Cetinic.

Through his research, Kevin has also learned that his brother was a hero. “I was told by one of his friends that he had a life jacket for some time and he gave it to another passenger because she was left without one, she couldn’t find one,” he said.

Kevin then asked me why the Captain of the ship, who ran the ship up against a rock, then hopped into a lifeboat and left the capsized liner while dozens of people were still on board, is now at home under house arrest. Captain Francesco Schettino is now facing charges of manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning his ship. Kevin noted that his brother, a hero, has not been found, and the Captain, a coward, is comfortable at home.

A few days ago Kevin and other relatives were taken out to the shipwreck. Search and rescue teams paused for a moment as the relatives threw flowers in the water. It was a moving moment. Kevin is now collecting messages from facebook that he intends to print out, cut into little strips and drop them in the water near the boat. One of the messages is from Russel’s three-year-old son Rhys, it says: “Daddy, please come back. I love you, Rhys.”

 

Post in: Italiano

Trisha Thomas
Trisha is a TV journalist working for AP TV News in Rome. She is married to an Italian and is a Mamma of three.

12 Comments

  1. jwthomas
    2012/01/23

    That is a powerful story Trisha;well written and moving. It must be incredible to see the ship on it side. Unless you have seen it you can’t imagine the size of the cruse liner. I saw the QE2 docked in Singapore once and it was unbelievably huge. The thought of exploring the underwater parts of the ship makes a shudder run down my back. The divers are heros too. While you feel the drama and sadness from far away, being present must be overpowering. How do you keep your own emotions under control in a situation like this. Thanks so much for for the report. L/D

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2012/01/23

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment. Seeing the ship on its side takes your breath away. My first day I took the ferry over from Porto Santo Stefano. It was packed with firefighters, Civil Protection workers, and journalists. It is a small ferry and I was on the open top deck. After about half an hour we could see Giglio Island in the distance and it looked like there was an enormous beached white whale leaning against the island. Then as we got closer we could see the deserted orange life rafts that did not open properly hanging off the sides, the cabins and all the coast guard and police boats around it.
      Sadly on Sunday the ferry was filled with disaster tourists, people who had made a day trip of coming to check out the scene. As far as my emotions are concerned, I always have a hard time with that. When I was speaking with Kevin Rebello, he told me it is easier for him to communicate on facebook with written messages because he doesn’t get emotional. As he said that I felt my eyes filling up with tears, right in the middle of the TV interview. It took a little effort to force them back. I was very saddened interviewing a lovely Peruvian woman, Madeleine and her father, Saturnino, whose sister and daughter is missing. She was also a crew member on the ferry. Her name is Erika Fani Soria Molina. They showed me a gorgeous graduation picture of her. Seeing the anguish on her father’s face as he stared at that photo was heart-breaking.

      Reply
  2. Alan
    2012/01/23

    of course one should not prejudge; but the Captain’s attitude and actions following the accident were quite appalling.

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2012/01/23

      Yes, I do have to remind myself “innocent until proven guilty” as far as the Captain is concerned, but seeing that ship and those relatives of the missing certainly have influenced my thoughts.

      Reply
  3. John. Menard
    2012/01/23

    A very touching story of family love and devotion. My thoughts and prayers are with the families of the dead and missing and those risking their lives to conduct the search. Thank you for sharing Kevin’s story.

    One of the things I enjoy about your blog is the way you use subtitle details that paint a picture. As an example you mentioned the conditions faced by the divers. I have seen references to the difficulties the divers encounter, but in very few words you touched on the universal problem of an underwater search, preventing the rescuer from getting lost and lack of visibility.

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2012/01/23

      Thank you for your comment John. Yes, I was very impressed by the courage of the divers. I can’t imagine going deep underwater in the dark, attached to a rope, bumping up against sharp objects, worrying the ship might move and hunting for bodies. True heroes indeed!

      Reply
  4. Stephen T
    2012/01/24

    What a moving story — it really puts a human face on it (other than the captain’s face; that story we’ve all seen a lot of) and brings the tragedy home. How sad. The photos were also very good — poignant. This entry has said more to me about the shipwreck than any news story I’ve read.

    Reply
  5. Penny Kirk
    2012/01/24

    The agonizing wait. You depict it so well, and while keeping your words clear and rational you are still able to convey the emotional atmosphere through Kevin and the others you got to know. Congratulations on another well done story.

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2012/01/24

      THANK YOU PENNY!

      Reply
  6. Rebecca Crosby Butler
    2012/01/26

    It’s happened. Crying over here now. Already upset and saddened about this whole tragedy but your words really put the human face to the story (cliched, sorry, but true). And I would’ve teared up during the interview too.

    Reply
  7. Kevin Rebello
    2012/02/29

    Hi Trisha, thank you very much for the well written article, well as you are aware, I am still here on Giglio Island and waiting for my brother Russel. Hope my prayers as well as prayers all over the world are heard and a miracle happens. I just want to take Russel home to his family. Keep up the good work and God bless. Thanks Kevin Rebello from Isola del Giglio.

    Reply
  8. Mozzarella Mamma Restoring Greatness - Mozzarella Mamma
    2016/07/17

    […] Giglio to do more reporting on the shipwrecked Costa Concordia ( see A Chilling Conversation and Kevin’s Puzzle), and then on to the Tuscan Town of Grosseto for the pre-trial hearing in the shipwreck case. […]

    Reply

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