The Italian cruise ship shuddered, but the crew aboard the luxury liner assured Ronda Rosenthal of Lakeville and her sister Vivian Shafer that it was a “minor issue” and nothing to worry about.
So the two went back to their cabin and climbed into bed.
“But when the ship started to tilt and things started to fall off the table, they said, ‘We’re out of here,’” said Jeff Rosenthal, who spent anxious hours this past weekend waiting to hear from his wife. He tells the Star Tribune “When they got up on the deck, it was pretty frightening. There was a lot of chaos. Some people were calm but most people were running back and forth, not knowing what to do because there wasn’t a lot of direction from the crew. So they kind of had to find their own way to the lifeboats. People were in total disarray.”
Hundreds of people jumped into the sea, swimming to shore, Rosenthal said. “There were a lot of people in the water,” he said.
The lifeboat that his wife and sister-in-law boarded ran aground but eventually made it safely to shore. Safe on land, the two called Jeff Rosenthal, waking him in the Rosenthals’ Lakeville home at 4:30 a.m. Saturday.
“She said, ‘I’m on an island and I’m OK,’” Rosenthal recalled. The sisters had left the ship with nothing but what was on their backs and have spent the past few days in Rome arranging for temporary passports and an airline flight back to Minnesota, Jeff Rosenthal said. All of their valuables are in the “safe, in their room, under water,” he said.
On Monday night, Italian authorities suspended the search for passengers and crew of the Costa Concordia, which grounded Friday night, killing at least six people. A White Bear Lake couple, Gerald and Barbara Heil, are among the 29 people still missing.