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Costa officials discuss compensation deal for passengers

Authorities have now identified the bodies of three German passengers recovered from the Costa Cruises ship that capsized off the coast of Italy earlier this month. Meanwhile, the children of a American couple still missing after the disaster have released a new statement. NBC's Michelle Kosinski reports.

Updated 11:05 p.m. ET — Officials from Costa Crociere SpA met with consumer activists Thursday in an attempt to work out what could be a blanket compensation deal for uninjured passengers who were aboard the cruise ship that capsized off Italy's coast, AP reports.

The deal being discussed would apply to 3,206 people from 61 countries who suffered no physical harm when the Costa Concordia hit a reef Jan. 13 after the captain made an unauthorized maneuver that brought the enormous ship too close to shore.

The offer would take into consideration the price of the ticket, any costs incurred in getting home after the disaster, the cost of items lost aboard the ship as well as damages for the ruined vacation and trauma resulting from the accident, said Furio Truzzi of the consumer group Assoutenti.

The offer would not apply to the hundreds of crew aboard the ship, the roughly 100 cases of people who were injured or the families who lost loved ones. Sixteen bodies have been recovered since the ship hit a reef carrying 4,200 people, with another 16 people still missing and feared dead.

"We are working for a collective transaction to come up with a value for damages," Truzzi said. "Each passenger can decide if this proposal is satisfactory. If it is not, they are free to react through a lawyer."

Truzzi said it was premature to discuss exact amounts of compensation. He said it would be an average and that any passenger who deemed his or her losses greater than the offer was free to counter the proposal.

"We will not close any doors," he said.

Costa has said it was in the process of reimbursing tickets and immediate expenses. Truzzi said those reimbursements did not preclude any future legal action on the part of those who were shipwrecked.

He said Assoutenti would work separately on a proposal for those who lost loved ones in the disaster and were also open to working with members of the crew if they came forward.

Truzzi said any damages agreed with Costa would be in addition to insurance policies taken out by passengers before embarking. He said 91 percent of the passengers had such policies.

Published at 9:15 a.m. ET — GIGLIO, Italy -- Italian authorities have identified the bodies of three German passengers as divers kept up the search for those still missing from the Costa Concordia cruise ship that rammed into a reef off Italy.

NBC News reports that divers will check 154 cabins onboard the ship Thursday. There are more cabins to search, but they are blocked by debris and remain difficult to access. Objects inside the ship will be recovered after the ship is deemed secure, according to officials.

In addition, three ships are surveying the seabed around the capsized cruise liner to look for passengers who might have drowned and been taken away by currents. According to an Italian civil protection spokesperson who spoke to NBC News, bodies may also be located under the ship or in parts of the wreck that cannot be accessed by rescue divers.

The children of a Minnesota couple missing in the Italian cruise ship disaster say the waiting has become "an extreme test" of their patience.

In a blog posting Wednesday, the children of Jerry and Barbara Heil of White Bear Lake, Minn., say they "so badly want Mom and Dad found" so they can be brought home. The Heils are the only Americans missing in the wreck.

The Concordia ran aground and capsized off the island of Giglio on Jan. 13 after the captain veered from his planned course and gashed the ship's hull on a reef, forcing the panicked evacuation of 4,200 passengers and crew.


The Costa Concordia, carrying more than 4,200 passengers, ran aground Jan. 13 off the coast of Italy. At least 15 people died in the accident, and rescuers continue to search for others missing.

NBC News reports that during a hearing Thursday at the senate, the general commander of the port authority, Marco Brusco, said that Captain Francesco Schettino "wasted a precious hour" following the incident during which time "people could have been lowered on lifeboats calmly."

"Instead, he left creating a tense situation by giving contradictory orders," Brusco said.

Schettino's lawyer, who says his client admits partial responsibility for the disaster, is seeking to widen the investigation to include third parties with whom he was in contact, notably from ship owners, Costa Cruises.

The wife of the captain accused of grounding the Costa Concordia cruise ship said in an interview published Tuesday she was outraged over the way her husband had been portrayed by the media.

"My husband is at the center of an unprecedented media storm," his wife, Fabiola Rossi, told French magazine Paris Match. "I cannot think of any other naval or air tragedy in which the responsible party was treated with such violence ... This is a man hunt, people are looking for a scapegoat, a monster."

Salvage experts worked Thursday so they could begin pumping tons of fuel off the ship starting Saturday to avert an environmental catastrophe. The stricken ship lies very close to a marine sanctuary.

There are not yet signs of significant pollution around the ship by oil, detergents and solvents. Samples are being taken repeatedly to keep monitoring the situation. Nevertheless, Italian officials have trained 130 volunteers to be deployed in case of an environmental disaster.

Recovery efforts at the site of the cruise ship disaster off the coast of Italy has entered a new phase Tuesday, with crews ready to remove oil from the wreckage. NBC's Michelle Kosinski reports.

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The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.