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Americans aboard Costa ship describe chaos

Americans who were aboard the Costa Concordia on Friday as it partially sank off the coast of Italy are returning home with tales of chaos and, some say, incompetence on the part of the crew.

“Literally, if you’ve seen Titanic, it was the scene right out of that,” passenger Michael Stoll of Brick Township, N.J., tells NBC New York. “All the plates, everything flying off the table.”

Stoll and his traveling companion, Addie King, who were back at home Tuesday night, tell the news outlet the ship’s crew wasn’t giving out emergency instructions as the crisis unfolded.

One crew member told a worried King to “calm down, just go in the lounge and have a drink,'” she notes. “And I’m like, I have to hold on to this pipe to keep from slipping.”

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Mary Jo Salzburg of Richmond, Il., tells the Chicago Sun-Times today that at first crew members told them the incident was just an electrical outage, and she also ran into crew just standing around an elevator laughing and chatting.

“You’d go up to (a crew member) and say, ‘What’s going on?’ and they’d either look at you funny because they didn’t understand (English) or say ‘Everything is fine, just go back to your cabin.’ “

Salzburg’s father, who also was aboard the ship, told Chicago’s WGN-TV on Tuesday that nobody seemed to be in charge.

“You begin to realize the Costa crew wasn’t going to save you,” the news outlet quotes Jim Salzburg as saying. “If you were going to get off this ship, you were going to save yourself.”

Mike Kajian, a business owner from Oshkosh, Wis., who was in the dining room at the time of the accident, tells the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that glasses, plates and bottles of wine flew off tables as the ship crashed and began to tilt.

“The people with their backs toward the steepest side – their chairs were flying and they ended up landing on the broken glass,” he tells the news outlet. “By the time we could help them, the electricity went out and it was pitch dark … that’s when everyone started panicking, children were crying and everyone started running to the stairs.”

Kajian, too, says crew members were telling passengers that the problem was electrical. A veteran of at least 10 cruises, he went to his room to get his life jacket and then headed for the life boats, the Journal Sentinel reports.

“I still wasn’t panicking until my feet touched the carpeting on the fourth floor and it was wet,” he is quoted as saying. “I asked how did water get up here?”

Kajian tells the Journal Sentinel that despite the accident, he still plans to cruise. Mary Jo Salzburg, by contrast, says she’s done with cruising, as are her parents.

“I think we’re all pretty much through cruising for a very long time,” the Sun-Times quotes Salzburg as saying.

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