A Lubbock native who was on the Costa Concordia says more people could have been saved.
Nick Taliaferro, 26, says confusion and chaos led to slow emergency responses. He tells KCBD that some people didn't have life vests because the crew went quickly from saying everything is ok to yelling abandon ship. Fortunately, he was preparing for the worst.
He describes tables flying, wine glass falling and a moment of terror minutes after the ship ran aground.
"We had to grab on to the staircase that was about ten feet away from us because the boat was almost completely sideways," Taliaferro said.
Still, Taliaferro says the crew acted like there was nothing wrong. He says they told people to go back to their rooms or enjoy the theater.
But Taliaferro's gut feeling said no. He immediately searched for a life vest and a boat that would let him leave the ship. It wasn't easy, he says, because the emergency drill was scheduled for the next day.
Taliaferro says he snapped a picture of a crew member guarding a life boat, telling him not to touch it. Shortly after, the lights went out.
"People became very scared. At that moment, people started hitting the floor like they had a heart attack or seizure," Taliaferro said.
He says it was then up to him and a few others to get nearly 200 people to safety.
"I opened up the life boat and studied the pulley system and how to get it down because no one was accepting the fact the boat was going down," Taliaferro said.
That's when reality struck. The boat began to lower. Taliaferro says some people tried to jump on while others fell into the ocean.
"We hit the side of the ship and then had a ten foot drop. It felt like the tower of terror," Taliaferro said.
As he looked back, he says some people tried to swim. With the strong undertow, he says they would just disappear.
"Some people were wearing dresses and coming out of the water with no shoes, freezing," Taliaferro said.
Life vests were the only thing keeping people warm, Taliaferro says.
Fortunately, the community opened a church to shelter the survivors. Hours later, the coast guard came to the rescue - a rescue that Taliaferro says should have happened sooner.
"I feel like I am a very lucky person for everything that happened," Taliaferro said.
Nick Taliaferro is stuck in Rome right now. Fortunately, he has a hotel room. He hopes to be home by Saturday night so he can attend his college classes in San Diego.
Copyright 2012 KCBD NewsChannel 11