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Concordia Victims Face 90 Day Wait For Expert Reports As Court Proceedings Begin

Lawyers Say Expert Evidence Must Provide ‘Much Needed Answers’



Expert lawyers representing victims of the Costa Concordia tragedy and their families say they hope experts appointed by the Italian court today (3rd March) will thoroughly review all available evidence and provide much needed answers as to how the cruise liner managed to run aground with the loss of 32 lives.

With the final death toll from the incident still to be confirmed and more bodies having been found last week among the ship’s wreckage, including one of a child, criminal court hearings began in Italy on Saturday in Grosetto.

The judge appointed four experts who on 9 March will begin the process of investigation into the incident to assist the court in deciding its verdict in the Criminal Courts. The experts reports are due to be presented at a hearing scheduled for 21 July 2012.

Travel law experts from Irwin Mitchell currently represent dozens of passengers and crew who were on board the liner when it ran aground on January 14th, including a teenage British dancer who was hailed a hero after helping others to safety and whose sister was on board the Costa Allegra - also owned by the Concordia’s parent company Carnival - when it was struck by an engine fire and towed to shore in the Seychelles this week.

The firm’s Head of Travel Law, Clive Garner, said victims and their families are hoping that the reports will help to explain how the modern liner, one of the largest in the Costa fleet, came to be so close to shore, why it ran aground and how the evacuation process went so horribly wrong. He added that many passengers who survived the ordeal are still struggling to come to terms with the incident more than six weeks later.

“Our clients have been through what was a horrendous experience and many regard themselves as lucky to be alive. We and our clients view this court hearing as the first step towards getting some essential answers as to how this tragedy was allowed to occur.” he said.

“Today's hearing dealt with preliminary issues including the instruction of experts and timetabling of the next steps in the criminal process. It is now crucial that the experts reports are prepared in time for the next hearing in July. The experts will have access to all available evidence from the ship, the coast guard, the police, witnesses and the Costa cruise line.

"Their conclusions should assist the Italian court in reaching its conclusions in relation to criminal charges. The experts' reports should also be helpful in establishing how much blame the Costa cruise line has to bear. The findings of the experts in this regard could have a significant effect on the civil proceedings and the value of damages ultimately recovered by victims in their fight for justice".

“Many of the passengers we represent are still trying to come to terms with what they have been through. There is no doubt that this was a most terrifying and traumatic experience. Many of our clients who thankfully survived genuinely feared for their lives. As well as physical injuries sustained by many in the dreadful evacuation process, large numbers are continuing to experience symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder ( PTSD).”

Prosecutors have charged Francesco Schettino, the Concordia’s captain, in relation to the incident.