‘We sailed on tragic cruise ship’

David Harrison and June Harmison with the stricken Costa Concordia in the background
David Harrison and June Harmison with the stricken Costa Concordia in the background

A WOMAN told of her horror at hearing about a cruise liner sinking off the coast of Italy – just eight weeks after she sailed on the same ship.

Costa Concordia and its 4,200 passengers were plunged into terror on Friday when the ship hit rocks near to the island of Giglio.

A huge rescue mission was launched, but tragically six bodies have so far been discovered and there are fears the death toll could rise.

June Harmison, 66, said she “shook for the rest of the day” after finding out about the disaster.

In November last year, June, who lives in Greatham, and her partner David Harrison had sailed past the scene where devastation was to strike just eight weeks later.

After watching dramatic pictures of the capsized ship on television, June told the Hartlepool Mail: “I didn’t sleep all night after I found out what had happened.

“All I could picture was being there on the ship and trying to figure out how I would have escaped.”

June’s week-long trip around the Mediterranean on the Costa Concordia started in Barcelona and took in Mallorca, Malta, Sicily and Civitavecchia.

The retired wage administrator added: “We were so close to exactly where it happened, I can picture it. It’s just unbelievable.

“It was such a beautiful ship, the first cruise I have ever been on, but I felt so safe on it.”

June and David, a retired financial manager and dad-of-four who lives in Billingham, booked the trip online in February last year.

June, a mum-of-three, who also has 10 grandchildren, said: “We saw the trip advertised for November and booked it straight away.

“It could have so easily been a couple of months later and we would still have booked it. It’s a frightening thought.”

June said staff aboard Concordia were all extremely friendly and safety checks involving lowering the lifeboats were held on a daily basis.

But the couple did comment on a meeting held with passengers on the first day of the trip which left a lot of emergency questions unanswered.

“We were given a card and told to go along to a meeting,” explained June.

“But when we got there it was promotional, there was nothing mentioned about emergencies.

“All we were told was that emergency information was on the back of our door and in case of an emergency we were told to run back to our room and put warm clothing on.”

June added: “It’s just unbelievable to think a ship like that can sink.

“It was huge, there were 14 decks and it must have been at least half-a-mile long.

“It would easily take 10 minutes to walk from one end of the ship to the other.”