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Victims of Costa shipwreck mark anniversary


February 20. 2013 1:57AM
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(AP) Survivors of the Costa Concordia shipwreck and relatives of the 32 people who died marked the first anniversary of the grounding Sunday with the unveiling of memorials to the victims, a Mass in their honor and a minute of silence to recall the exact moment that the cruise ship rammed into a reef off Tuscany.


The first event of Sunday's daylong commemoration was the return to the sea of part of the massive rock that tore into the hull of the 112,000-ton ocean liner on Jan. 13, 2012 and remained embedded as the vessel capsized along with its 4,200 passengers and crew.


As fog horns wailed, a crane on a tug lowered the boulder onto the reef off Giglio. Affixed to it was a memorial plaque. Survivors and relatives of the dead embraced as they watched the ceremony from a special ferry that bobbed in the waves under a slate gray sky.


A land-based memorial was being unveiled after a Mass and ceremony honoring rescue crews. A minute of silence was scheduled for 9:45 p.m., the exact moment when the Concordia slammed into the reef after the captain took the ship off course in a stunt to bring it closer to Giglio.


The captain, Francesco Schettino, remains under house arrest, accused of multiple manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and leaving the ship before all passengers were evacuated. He hasn't been charged. Schettino maintains he saved lives by bringing the ship closer to shore rather than letting it sink in the open sea, and claims the reef he hit wasn't on his nautical charts.


Taking part in the anniversary commemoration is Capt. Gregorio De Falco of the Italian coast guard, who became something of a hero to survivors after his recorded conversations with Schettino during the evacuation were made public. In the conversations, De Falco excoriated Schettino for having abandoned the ship before all passengers were off and ordered him to return, shouting the now-infamous order Go on board (expletive)!


De Falco said he wanted to go to Giglio to embrace the victims, and the relatives of the victims. De Falco, who has shied from all media attention since the disaster, said he did so out of respect for the victims.


I don't want notoriety for this tragedy. I have always avoided it, he told RAI state television.


The Concordia remains capsized off Giglio's port. Officials now say it will take until September to prepare the ship to be rolled upright and towed from the rocks to a port to be dismantled.


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Winfield reported from Rome.


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Follow Nicole Winfield at www.twitter.com/nwinfield


Associated Press


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