4 from Little Rock survive Italian cruise ship disaster

PORTO SANTO STEFANO, Italy – Four Central Arkansans survive a luxury cruise ship crash off the coast of Italy but at least three people are dead and 40 are still missing.

Four thousand people abandoned the ship in an act of desperation to survive.

Two more people have been found alive in the ship’s cabin. It was a South Korean couple on their honeymoon.

Some call the terrifying scene “a Titanic like experience,” including survivors from right here in Little Rock.

Total chaos is how survivors describe what happened aboard the Costa Concordia in Italy. Friday night the ship hit a reef and quickly started taking in water.

Passengers were eating dinner when they heard a scraping sound. That’s when panic began for the4,000 people on board, including Little Rock native Mark Plath and his wife, who decided to jump.

Mark Plath says, “It was very difficult for the lifeboats to get down because the ship was at an angle and so the lifeboat can’t go down the side of the boat like this. And so one of the boats was full of 200 people, went down and caught on the railing and the lifeboat tipped sideways and then fell and swung and everybody was screaming.”

Plath’s brother-in-law Justin Baines and his wife were also on board.

“At the very end, before we jumped off, one of the crew members was actually telling us we need to stay on. And that’s when Mark was saying that we don’t need to stay on because it was sinking so fast,” Baines says. “And where we were standing is actually underwater right now so obviously we needed to get off right then. And that’s when about, I guess, 100, 150 people started swimming.”

Crew members initially told passengers the problem was electrical. But once the blackout came, a bigger issue soon followed, quickly ending their vacation at sea.

Passengers say there was no clear evacuation plan.

The captain could face manslaughter charges for abandoning the ship while people were still aboard.

Exactly what caused the crash is still unknown.

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