Blake Miller, left, and Steve Garcia, a gay couple from Austin, were among those who survived the sinking of the Costa Concordia cruise ship off the coast of Italy over the weekend. Garcia, a school teacher in Round Rock, reportedly was celebrating his 50th birthday on the cruise with Miller, his partner of 10 years. Miller is the director of business travel at the InterContinental Stephen F. Austin hotel. It was both men’s first cruise and Miller’s first time in Europe. They told the Today show on Sunday they had been to one of the ship’s bars and were planning on going to another when the ship started to list. After they went back to their cabin, they heard a horrible scraping sound. Fortunately the couple had read about the location of the lifeboats.
“I honestly did not have a true understanding of how bad it was until we were on the lifeboat and looked back and saw the first row of windows under water and people screaming, that couldn’t get on a lifeboat,” Miller said. “That’s when we realized how much it was really tilting.”
The Austin American-Statesman reports that once the men were on land, they were stranded on an island for 12 hours.
When he spoke to one of the ship’s officers on shore, Miller said, the man made a flippant comment.
When the couple were ferried to Porto Santo Stefano early Saturday, Miller said, it was the first time anyone from the cruise accounted for them. It wasn’t until media cameras were filming that a cruise employee offered then blankets. But once they boarded a bus to take shelter in a nearby school gym, away from the media’s bright lights, the blankets were taken away, he said.
After hours without information or answers, they were routed to a hotel in Rome. But without money, passports or clothes, they’re still grappling to put their lives back in order. Though embassy representatives from other countries have deployed to their hotel to help other stranded passengers there, Miller said he’s seen no sign of American help. And with the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, they may have to wait until Tuesday, he said.
Watching CNN in their hotel room, Miller said images of the incident continue to upset him. And Costa Concordia’s behavior since the ship ran aground has left him angry.
“I just don’t see how you can leave people with no food, no water, no warmth and not have some kind of plan,” he said. “It’s just not how you run a business. It’s 4,000 lives.”
Watch the couple’s appearance on the Today show below.
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