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Costa Concordia: 'Stupid' Tourists Rescued
Coastguards have criticised five German cruise ship passengers who hired an inflatable boat to get a close-up look at the wrecked Costa Concordia liner.
The group, including two children, had to be rescued after their tiny boat was swamped by waves, whipped up by storm force winds. All were suffering from the effects of the cold.
Officials said the party were holidaymakers from the Costa Magica, a cruise liner from the same Costa Cruises fleet as the ill-fated Concordia, which struck rocks last year leaving 32 people dead off the Italian island of Giglio.
The Germans had arrived at Civitavecchia and made their way to Porto Santo Stefano where they hired the boat so they could take a look at the stricken Concordia which is still lying on rocks just outside the entrance to Giglio harbour.
Although they managed to sail the 10 miles from Porto Santo Stefano without any problem, on the return leg the weather suddenly changed and the boat got into difficulties.
But it managed to stay afloat and they were picked up by a coastguard vessel which took them back to the mainland.
Once on dry land, they were given hot drinks and wrapped in thermal blankets and after being given the all-clear by paramedics they were taken back to Civitavecchia where they resumed their cruise ship holiday.
A coastguard spokesman in Porto Santo Stefano said: ''It was a pretty stupid thing to do. They were lucky that it ended as it did - they could have quite easily sank.
"The strong wind created high waves and they were having trouble controlling their inflatable boat. They were all cold and wet but grateful for the fact we were on hand.
"They suffered no lasting effects but we did tell them not to try anything similar in the future.''
Since it crashed into the rocks last year, the Costa Concordia has turned into a macabre tourist attraction with hundreds of sightseers catching a ferry from Porto Santo Stefano to Giglio so they can look at the 300ft ship and take pictures before returning to the mainland.
The ship had just left Civitavecchia and was on a seven-day cruise with more than 4,000 passengers and crew on board when captain Francesco Schettino is said to have altered the course so he could carry out a sail-by salute of Giglio to show off to passengers and islanders.
He is now facing charges of multiple manslaughter as well as abandoning his ship while passengers and crew were still on board and needing to be rescued.
A trial is expected to start later this year and the operation to remove the vessel is not expected to be completed until the summer - 18 months after the disaster.