Costa Concordia
Rescue workers leaves the security area of the capsized cruise liner Costa Concordia in front of Giglio harbour (Reuters)

Many of those who perished in last January's Costa Concordia disaster died as they searched in vain for lifeboats, in a tragic echo of the Titanic disaster almost exactly 100 years earlier.

Documents filed by Italian prosecutors against captain Francesco Schettino, who abandoned the cruise liner as it sank, recount chaotic scenes in which some victims died after slipping on the flooded deck, while others drowned in the freezing waters because they were unable to swim.

The documents show that five-year-old Dayana Arlotti, the youngest of the 32 people killed in the tragedy, died along with her father, William, after they were turned away from a lifeboat.

"Having not found places in a lifeboat on deck four on the port side, they were directed by members of the crew to the starboard side," the 60-page dossier reads.

Dayana and her father met their death falling "in a flooded area of the deck, as the ship capsized on its starboard side." William Arlotti tried frantically to pull his daughter to safety, but to no avail.

A similar fate awaited Jeanne Yvonne Gannard and her brother Pierre André Emile Gregoire, as well as Josef Werp and his wife Brunhild.

Maria D'Intorno did not know how to swim. She had found a spot aboard a lifeboat but was forced to get back on the cruise, as this was going down with a tilt angle that prevented the launch.

As waters flooded the area, the woman "was forced to jump into the water" in a desperate attempt to reach the shore. She died along with a further 26 passengers and five crew members.

Prosecutors alleged Schettino's orders caused a shortage of lifeboats.

The captain initially ordered evacuation to take place from the starboard side only. Several lifeboats on the port side were left unused and their launch was later made impossible by the Costa Concordia's sinking. 

Hundreds of passengers on board the Titanic died after being turned away from heaving lifeboats as the ship slid into the water. Titanic was only carrying enough lifeboats for around half its crew and passengers when it struck an iceberg in April 1912.

'Ill-timed presence of extraneous people caused disaster'

The Costa Concordia sank on 13 January 2012, after striking a rock off the Tuscan island of Giglio and collasing on its right-hand side.

Prosecutors alleged Schettino, who is on trial for manslaughter and abandoning ship, took the cruise liner too close to the shore without "having checked or planned the rout using adequate charts."

It is claimed that Schettino - dubbed Captain Coward for abandoning the ship with hundreds still on board - slowed down the cruise in order to "have a quiet dinner" becfore increasing his speed near the coastline, despite the perils inherent in this approach.

Schettino allegedly took the ship too close to the coast in an attempt to perform a sail-past salute to the island's inhabitants and particularly a retired captain living there.

However he was distracted by the presence on the bridge of the "ill-timed presence of extraneous people," including Domnica Cemortan, a Moldovan ex-dancer with whom he had dined.

The dossier contains a list of 157 passengers and crew members that suffered from injuries in the disaster.

Schettino is on trial with several other ship's officers and will appear before court for a preliminarily hearing on April 15.

Francesco Schettino
Costa Concordia's captain Francesco Schettino is surrounded by Italian Carabinieri at the end of a preliminary hearings in Grosseto (Reuters)