The luxury cruise ship Costa Concordia leans on its side after running aground the tiny Tuscan island of Giglio, Italy, Saturday, Jan. 14, 2012. A luxury cruise ship ran aground off the coast of Tuscany, sending water pouring in through a 160-foot (50-meter) gash in the hull and forcing the evacuation of some 4,200 people from the listing vessel early Saturday, the Italian coast guard said. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
As the Italian cruise liner Costa Concordia lay crippled in shallow Mediterranean waters, several Kentuckians have made their way home. EKU grad student Joseph Ryan was on the ship with friends when it ran aground.
"It was just chaos," he says.
Ryan says he felt the rumble and ship tilt while eating dinner, but no one was told there was a problem. It was only when the ship really began to fall on its side that Ryan knew he had to leave.
"Once the boat really started to get really far on its side, we really understood that we need to be getting off this boat. I said we need to be prepared to swim, so get a jacket, get ready. We went down and got our life vests on," he says.
Ryan and his friend Lauren were able to get into a lifeboat, but he says the terror just got worse there.
"I think the scariest thing was seeing people try to get on our lifeboat after it was full. People were hitting them with poles and oars trying to keep them back because our boat was so full already," he says.
As he and his friends reached, they were just glad to be alive.
"I think it was sheer relief. Little did we know that the process of this had just begun," says Ryan.
That relief quickly evolved into frustration as Joseph and his friends tried to figure out what to do next.
"We didn't know that it was going to be another 18 hours with hardly any food or water or any direction from there on out. We followed the crowds and searched for people who could speak a little English. One of the people in our party was sick and getting a fever and not being able to keep food or water down or any kind of drinks. It was hard for us to convey to people that we needed medicine," he says.
They quickly realized a vital tool they'd all need to get back to Kentucky had been lost.
"The most important thing that everyone on the cruise lost was their passport. No one was able to get their passport. Everyone had to go to their embassy to go home," says Ryan.
Ryan was finally able to make it home to Henry County around midnight last night. He says he and his friends have a lot to think about.
"At some point we know we're going to have to face all of it emotionally and all that stuff and come to grips with what happened. Now, it really hasn't sunk in how serious of an issue it was and how lucky we are to be alive because people did die," he says.
Looking back, he says there were some serious lapses in safety.
"One of my friends who was with us said she was upset because we didn't do an emergency evacuation drill that they always do on cruise ships. I feel like in my opinion, there's been some negligence done to these people on the cruise by the staff on the boat. I felt like the measures were not taken in this emergency situation to keep people safe," he says.