Costa Concordia human remains believed to be found

Story highlights

  • Of 32 declared dead in the Costa Concordia accident, two bodies have yet to be recovered
  • The cruise ship struck rocks off Italy's Giglio Island in January 2012
  • Engineers rotated the ship back to vertical last month

Divers have found what they believe are human remains on the wrecked Costa Concordia cruise ship, the Italian Civil Protection agency announced Tuesday.

The bodies of two people from the 2012 wreck have never been found: Russel Rebello of India and Maria Grazia Trecarichi of Sicily have been missing but presumed dead. Their bodies have long been believed to be either trapped beneath or inside the ship.

Italian authorities also said two weeks ago that divers found what they thought were human remains on the ship's Deck 4. But they later determined that the remains were animal.

The cruise liner capsized after it struck rocks off Italy's Giglio Island in the Tyrrhenian Sea in January 2012, killing 32 of 4,200 people on board. The toll includes Rebello and Trecarichi.

Rebello, 33, was a cruise waiter who was last seen helping passengers off the ship. Trecarichi was on the cruise to celebrate her 50th birthday with her 17-year-old daughter, who survived.

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The new discovery of remains comes about three weeks after engineers managed to rotate the ship back to vertical. Before that, the ship rested 20 months on its side, hindering a full examination.

Costa Concordia righted

Authorities say the ship struck the rocks off Giglio Island after the captain, Francesco Schettino, ordered the liner to veer more than four miles off course to salute a former sea captain who had retired on Giglio.

Schettino faces charges of manslaughter, causing a maritime disaster and abandoning ship with passengers still on board. His trial, which began with preliminary hearings in March, resumed last month.

The trial is expected to last through the fall with a string of witnesses, including passengers, crew members and islanders, who say they saw the captain on shore looking for dry socks before all the passengers had been safely evacuated.

Schettino argues that he is a hero who saved the lives of more than 4,000 people, not a villain whose negligence led to the deaths of 32. His defense is trying to prove, among other things, that the ship's watertight doors did not function properly, and that is the reason the ship sank, leading to all 32 deaths during evacuation.

Schettino also has told the court that the ship would not have crashed had his helmsman turned it in the direction that Schettino told him to 13 seconds before impact.

The helmsman, Jacob Rusli Bin, and four others were convicted in a plea deal in July for their role in the disaster. A Florence court is considering the validity of those plea bargain agreements.