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Ship owner: 'Significant human error' by captain likely

Divers were out in cold water, searching for survivors after the Costa Concordia ran aground and capsized. NBC's Michelle Kosinski reports from the Italian coast.

 

Updated at 4:45 p.m. ET:
The owner of the capsized Italian cruise ship issued a statement Sunday saying it appears the ship's captain was at fault. in the tragedy that has claimed at least five lives. Fifteen more people, including two Americans, are still missing.  

"While the investigation is ongoing, preliminary indications are that there may have been significant human error on the part of the ship's master, Captain Francesco Schettino, which resulted in these grave consequences," Costa Cruises, a subsidiary of U.S.-based Carnival Corp., stated. "The route of the vessel appears to have been too close to the shore, and in handling the emergency the captain appears not to have followed standard Costa procedures."


Updated at 3 p.m. ET:
The captain was spotted on land during the evacuation, and he ignored pleas by officers that he return to his ship and honor his duty to stay aboard until everyone else was safely off the vessel, a Coast Guard official said Sunday.

"We did our duty," Italian Coast Guard Cmdr. Francesco Paolillo told The Associated Press, referring to efforts to get Francesco Schettino back on the Costa Concordia Friday night.

Safety standards require cruise ships to have public address systems, enclosed lifeboats and evacuation chutes. NBC's Mark Potter has more.

 Schettino, who is in police custody while officials investigate the cause, has insisted he didn't leave the liner before all passengers were off, saying "we were the last ones to leave the ship."

According to the Italian navigation code, a captain who abandons a ship in danger can face up to 12 years in prison.

Slideshow: Luxury ship runs aground

Updated at 12:15 p.m. ET:
Divers searching for missing passengers and crew from the capsized Italian cruise ship found two more bodies on Sunday but are facing dangerous obstacles themselves.

The vessel could suddenly move and sink into deeper waters, and floating objects inside the ship as well as muck are hindering divers.

"There are tents, mattresses, other objects moving which can get tangled in the divers' equipment," Italian Coast Guard Cmdr. Cosimo Nicastro said Sunday.

Enzo Russo / AFP - Getty Images

Francesco Schettino, the captain of the Costa Concordia, is taken into custody in Grosseto, Italy, on Saturday.

Officials were going to huddle soon to see how long the underwater search could safely continue, he said.

In order to find their way out, divers are using a long cord they hook near the point of entrance and unroll as they work. 

Three people have been found alive after most of the 4,200 passengers and crew escaped on life boats, fishing boats and even swimming to shore, but 5 are confirmed dead and 15 more are missing.

Updated at 10:40 a.m. ET:
Two more bodies were recovered from the capsized Italian cruise ship, raising the official death toll to 5, as investigators looked into accusations that the captain abandoned ship early.

Patrick Capito was a passenger on the capsized Italian cruise ship Costa Concordia and describes swimming to shore after attempts to get into a life raft failed.

The bodies of two elderly men still in their life jackets were recovered by divers at the emergency gathering point near a restaurant area. Fifteen people are still unaccounted for. Two of those are U.S. citizens, the U.S. Embassy in Rome said.

Updated at 10:10 a.m. ET:
Two survivors of the Italian cruise ship that hit a reef are among those who said the captain abandoned ship early. A prosecutor earlier said he's investigating those allegations.

Ophelie Gondelle and David Du Pays of Marseille, France, said they saw the captain in a lifeboat, covered by a blanket, well before all the passengers were off the ship. They insisted on telling a reporter what they saw, so incensed that — according to them — the captain had abandoned the ship before everyone had been evacuated.

"The commander left before and was on the dock before everyone was off," said Gondelle, 28, a French military officer.

Two of the 129 Americans who escaped injury when a submerged rock brought down a cruise ship shortly after departing an Italian port Friday tell TODAY's Lester Holt that the crew appeared was unprepared and unsure about emergency procedures.

"Normally the commander should leave at the end," said Du Pays, a police officer who said he helped an injured passenger to a rescue boat. "I did what I could."

Updated at 7:25 a.m. ET:
An Italian prosecutor confirms he's investigating allegations from passengers and others that the captain of the cruise ship Costa Concordia abandoned the stricken liner before all the passengers had left.

Officials believe the ship's captain, Francesco Schettino, had brought the 114,500-tonne vessel too close to the shore, where it struck the rock, tearing a large gash in the hull.

Stringer/Italy / Reuters

A combination photo shows a South Korean couple after they were rescued from the Costa Concordia.

Three people are confirmed dead after the huge cruise ship carrying more than 4,200 people ran aground on Friday night. Three people -- a South Korean couple and a crew member -- have reportedly been rescued.

Rescuers found the crew member, chief purser Manrico Gianpetroni, after hearing his screams. He suffered a broken leg, Reuters reports.

Rescue crews were searching for 17 missing people in our around the ship, down from around 40 people who were unaccounted for right after the luxury liner went down, Sky News reports. 

Updated at 6:50 a.m. ET:
The U.S. Embassy in Rome issues a statement revising the number of Americans estimated on board the Costa Concordia to 125 from 126.

"We continue to account for and provide emergency assistance to them," the Embassy via Twitter.

Panic ensues after a luxury cruise ship dubbed the "Floating Temple of Fun" runs aground off Italy. NBC's Claudio Lavanga reports.

 

A Korean couple on their honeymoon were taken off the ship early on Sunday.  A third person, reportedly a crew member, was being removed late Sunday morning, according to Sky News.


Updated at 5:50 a.m. ET:
Reuters reports that teams are painstakingly checking thousands of rooms on the Costa Concordia for the nearly 40 people still missing after the huge vessels foundered and keeled over with more than 4,000 n board, killing at least three and injuring 70.
A Korean couple on their honeymoon were taken off the ship early on Sunday.  A third person, reportedly a crew member, was being removed late Sunday morning.
Reuters adds:
The task is akin to searching a small town - but one tilted on its side, and largely in darkness and submerged in freezing water. Scores of divers were taking part.
Just after dawn on Sunday, a team made voice contact with a third survivor still on board the ship. "We are doing the impossible to reach this person," coast guard spokesman Luciano Nicastro told Italian television.
After midnight, rescue workers had found the two South Koreans still alive in a cabin, after locating them from several decks above, and brought them ashore, looking dazed but unharmed.
The captain of the luxury 114,500-tonne ship, Francesco Schettino, was under arrest and accused of multiple manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning ship, Italian police said.
 
Updated at 5:43 a.m. ET:
Sky News is reporting that a rescue team has placed a third survivor on a stretcher and are in the process of removing him from the ship.

Updated at 5:20 a.m. ET: 
A third survivor was located inside the overturned Costa Concordia cruise ship off the western coast of Italy, a spokesman for Italian firefighters told The Associated Press on Sunday.

Rescuers had spoken to the person inside the ship but the survivor had not yet been removed, Luca Cari told the AP.

Published at 4:45 a.m. ET: 
Rescue crews circling the wreckage of a cruise ship that ran aground off the Tuscan coast have heard sounds from within the ship, Britain's Sky News reported on Sunday.

 
Sources said that fire department crews had heard sounds from deck 3, Sky reported. A few dozen people remained unaccounted for.
 
Crews in dinghies were seen Sunday morning touching the hull with their hands. They were near the site of the 160-foot-long gash where water flooded in and caused the ship to fall on its side.
 
Coast guard officials have said divers will try to enter the belly of the ship in case anyone is still inside Italian news reports quoting local officials say some 40 people remain unaccounted for out of the 4,200 passengers and crew. Three people are confirmed dead.
 
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.
 
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