Bye bye Norman Atlantic, and goodbye also to the crime scene and possible expertise supplements in the running criminal trial; the judge of preliminary investigations, in fact, after 4 and a half years of seizure, allowed the release (a week before the trial started) from seizure of the ro/pax ferry that caught fire the night between 27 and 28 December 2014; the last journey of the Norman Atlantic, who left the port of Bari with the help of the tugboat “Ionion Pelagos”, flying the flag of the Comoros Islands, sailing from quay n. 30 where it was moored, will take the ship, in navigation on a trailer transfer, to the Turkish port of Aliaga, destined for demolition in a local shipyard. A journey lasting about 6 days.
Bye bye Norman Atlantic, e arrivederci anche alla scena del crimine e possibili supplementi di perizia nel processo penale in corso; il giudice delle indagini preliminari, infatti, dopo 4 anni e mezzo di sequestro, ha consentito (una settimana prima dell’inizio del processo) il dissequestro del traghetto ro/pax che prese fuoco la notte tra il 27 e il 28 dicembre 2014; l’ultimo viaggio della Norman Atlantic, che ha abbandonato il porto di Bari con l’ausilio del rimorchiatore “Ionion Pelagos”, battente bandiera delle Isole Comore, salpando dalla banchina n. 30 dove era ormeggiata, porterà la nave, in navigazione di trasferimento a rimorchio, verso il porto turco di Aliaga, destinata alla demolizione in un cantiere nautico del posto. Un viaggio della durata di circa 6 giorni.
Come avevamo anticipato a fine dicembre, è stata finalmente firmata la richiesta di rinvio a giudizio e fissata la prima serie di udienze preliminari nell’aula bunker di Bitonto: si parte dal 06 maggio 2019 ed è stato fissato un primo calendario di udienze; assieme al decreto di fissazione udienza GUP è stato notificata anche la richiesta di rinvio a giudizio da parte della procura di Bari, e le novità, rispetto alla prima formulazione dei capi di imputazione all’epoca delle indagini preliminari e dell’incidente probatorio, sono decisamente molte, oltre che nell’elenco di soggetti imputati, notevolmente aumentato comprendendo oggi nei 32 soggetti una buona parte dell’equipaggio, anche nei capi di imputazione, che alla luce dei risultati della perizia e degli accertamenti tecnico-scientifici, è stato ampiato e dettagliato in modo estremamente rigoroso e giuridicamente articolato.
As we anticipated at the end of December, the request for indictment was finally signed by the P.P.’s and the first series of preliminary hearings is being set up in Bitonto bunkering room: starting from May 6th, a first calendar of hearings is already set; together with the decree of the GUP hearing, the request for prosecution by the Bari PP’s office was also notified, and the news, compared to the first formulation of the indictments at the time of the preliminary investigations and the probationary incident, are decidedly many, and beyond that in the list of subjects accused, greatly increased comprising today in the 32 subjects a good part of the crew, but also in the counts of imputation, that in light of the results of the appraisal and the technical-scientific investigations, it is detailed in an extremely rigorous and juridically articulated manner.
At exactly 4 years from the fire and shipwreck of the Norman Atlantic, here it comes the official news that the Prosecutor’s office of Bari has finally requested the indictment for the 32 suspects (30 individuals and two companies) accused of the disaster occurred off the Albanian coast in the night between 27 and 28 December 2014, which caused 31 victims, including 12 confirmed deaths and 19 bodies never found, and the serious injury of 64 of the approximately 500 passengers, all remained on board in stormy sea for two days and beyond, and that even today they have not overcome the trauma of that terrible experience.
No fire alarm was issued, no warning from the crew, and the passengers awoke at night between coulters of smoke and panic scenes. A panic which released – in many – the worst in human race. The first to abandon ship were some of the crew, dropping quickly the only usable lifeboat, with just a third of its precious capacity of persons. During the retrieve of the passengers using the baskets lowered from helicopters, others have literally attacked the rescuers, with bites and punches, just to be saved first, others refused to leave priority to women and children. Some people threw himself into the water to escape the flames, and was quickly swallowed by the waves of the icy December sea.
The news of the signing of the request for judgment had been circulating for some weeks now, but reaching the 4th anniversary, it comes an official confirmation that the prosecutors have requested the criminal trial for the legal representative of Visemar, the company that owns the ferry, Carlo Visentini, the two legal representatives of the Greek Anek Lines, charterer of the ship, the commander Argilio Giacomazzi and 26 members of the crew. After confirming the serious responsibilities and negligence that emerged in the probationary phase, the suspects are accused, for various reasons, of crimes of negligent cooperation in shipwreck, culpable homicide and multiple culpable injuries in addition to numerous violations on safety and the navigation code.
The date of the first hearing with the judge of the preliminary hearing has not yet been set, but we already know that – in order to overcome the logistical difficulties of the court of Bari – the Bitonto bunker room was again made available, in which we will stand for this part of the criminal trial.
Our team “Giustizia per Norman Atlantic” has represented so far about fifty people whose lives were devastated in various ways in the shipping incident, as passengers or as family members of victims or missing, and for many of those we lauched the multi-milion civil case running in Bari, that lately moved a further step in extending the compensation responsabilities to another company of Visemar Group.
For many others, forced by the long waiting and personal difficulties, we were asked to negotiate and close their case with a transaction, but now with the criminal trial pending we are confident that justice will soon be brought to all, even for those that couldn’t wait for a judicial and more fair compensation. New clients have recently joined, to overcome the lack of results they faced in other countries and different strategies.
But for all passengers, more and beyond an economic compensation, the first right to justice is that those who have made so many mistakes will pay with years in prison and companies will be punished with heavy punitive damages, so that this tragedy will prevent the recurrence of disasters in the world of navigation by ferries
The 2019 will now be the year of the Norman Atlantic trial, and we will ensure to make it as productive and effective as possible.
In the night between August the 28th and the 29th 2018 the ship Eleftherios Venizelos, another ferry from Anek Lines, during its travel from Piraeus to Crete with 875 passengers and 141 crew on board, was hit by a serious fire in the garage area, so much that the Captain was forced to declare general emergency and abandonment of the ship.
The emergency operations were not easy and implied the intervent of two firefighting tug boats, ten tenders, 48 firefighters and two emergency teams, as the fire was very quickly expanding from the lower decks and heavy black smoke was inclosing the ship.
The dynamic of the new accident is similar to the disaster of the Norman Atlantic, which as this one, was operating under the flag of the Greek company ANEK: a vehicle parked on board caught fire so that from 12am the board started to send emergency signals to get help from the Coast Guard.
After we assisted dozens of passengers who suffered a devastating experience onboard of the Anek’s ferry Norman Atlantic in the nights of the 28/29 December 2014 where so many lost their life, an all others suffered for their personal safety and for the losses of their personal belongings and for which we already submitted to the Civil Court of Bari our law suit against Anek and Visemar (see our web page on such case: https://giustiziapernormanatlantic.wordpress.com/), we face another case with a fire that broke out in the car deck of a ferry.
The emergency operations on the Eleftherios Venizelos went on during all night and the ship was at the end escorted back into Piraeus and all the passengers were disambarked only during the morning of the 29 August.
Media sources report that the ship has had many problems operating so much that since 2014 it has a discontinuous use, with some short-term rentals (including one to the Greek government for the transportation of migrants from the islands) and sporadic income in service as a replace of other ships Anek stopped for repairs. This raises questions in relation to safety of the ship. These questions will be adressed by with a specific complaint we will file to authorities that have already opened an investigation to find out the causes of the fire and the reasons for the lack of containment of the flames in the garage by the drenching system, providing all the trial expert’s reports on Norman Atlantic about critical issues on fires in Ro/Ro ship’s garage open decks.Continua a leggere →
Yesterday morning, in Bari Courthouse, the second hearing was held in the civil case brought by our legal team against ANEK AE and Visemar di Navigazione, following the filing of the supplementary memorandum ordered by the judge to specify in detail the damage items and factual elements for each passenger.
Once again the counterpart lawyers have raised numerous and insidious ritual and procedural exceptions, concerning the forfeiture – statute of limitations of the compensation action and rights recalling the Athens convention and the reg.CE 392/2009, in the attempt to guarantee a maximum limit to all compensation for passengers, as established by the European Community standard, while we immediatly replied on the lateness of these procedural exceptions, on the inapplicability of the CE limits to compensation in the presence (as in our case) of criminal offenses and serious fault / willful misconduct by the carrier (or its employees), requiring finally the judge to authorize the extension of the civil case also against another company of the visemar group (Visemar Trasporti Srl) as owner of the ship and responsible – economically jointly with the other two, for all compensation, in order to have a more adequate guarantee of solvency, taking into account the high request for compensation also for punitive damages that we proposed.
The judge decided to limit the topic of the discussion only on this last point, considered preliminary to others, and kept the case file in reserve in order to decide whether to authorize the call of Visemar Transport or not;in such eventuality the Court will set a deadline for notifying the deeds to this additional company, establishing a new hearing, or will set directly to the next hearing assigning to the parties an interlocutory term for the filing of replies on the further exceptions, as well as for the articulation of the investigations, filing of documents and certifications.
In the meantime the burned ship has been moved from the cruise dock to the entrance dock of the port of Bari, constituting a gloomy entry/exit ticket for all ships – but hopefully also a severe warning about accident prevention, where it will remain – always under seizure – pending the start of the criminal trial that may require further technical examination of the experts.
This last aspect, unfortunately, has undergone a further slowdown as the criminal court of Bari has recently been declared unfit and part of the hearing and the Public Prosecutor’s activities have moved temporarily under big “camping tents“, in conditions of extreme discomfort, and a recent government’s decree stopped all hearing until the end of the summer;however, we are confident that – after the conclusion of the preliminary investigations – the request for indictment for all the investigated is not far away, and this will certainly represent a decisive turning point for the rights and expectations of passengers and victims.
A big step towards the criminal trial that will bring finally light and justice to the Norman Atlantic marittime disaster; great satisfaction from our legal team, not only because we are approaching the trial, but also because the Public Prosecutor has clearly listened to the complaints of our clients, adding to the accused list all the crew members who did not provide the necessary assistance to passengers. There was no loading plan for the heavy trucks, and the fire started to develop from one of the refrigerated trucks, because there were not enough power outlets and the truck drivers kept their engines running to cool the goods. A hypothesis that had already made its way in the days following the fire, as a malpractice prohibited by navigation regulations. And there were other and numerous negligence, both in the risk assessment and during the evacuation, with extreme disorganization and several crew members who left the ship way before the passengers were safe. Now the Bari prosecutor, after 3 years close investigations, adding all the crew members to the accused, mainly for our multiple reports of severe complaints from our clients for abandonment of the ship; 30 people and two companies, Visemar and Anek Lines, now face the criminale trial for the shipwreck of the Norman Atlantic ferry, which took place off the Albanian coast on the night of December 28 2014 after a fire broke out on board that cost the lives of 31 people, including some Syrian migrants, even minors, and the wounding of others 64.
All the subjects under investigation are liable for involuntary cooperation in shipwreck, culpable homicide and multiple culpable injuries. Numerous violations on security and the navigation code are also contested. To the original 18 people already in the file of the p.p’s office of Bari, Ettore Cardinali and Federico Perrone Capano, they added others 12: they are the legal representative of Visemar, society owner of the ferry, Carlo Visentini, the two legal representatives of the Greek Anek Lines, charterer of the Norman Atlantic, in addition to the commander Argilio Giacomazzi and 26 crew members. 6 of them also contend that they had left the ship avoiding to help passengers way before they were safe. A series of negligences emerged in the expert’s report of the Port Authority of Bari, above all on the assessment of the risks and on the organization of the operations of evacuation of the ship, which would have caused the shipwreck and the death of some passengers. About the causes of the shipwreck we already ran trough a probationary incident phase that lasted about two years with numerous accesses aboard the wreck, moored since February 2015 in the port of Bari, and still subjected to seizure.
The experts report about a ineffective firefighting system and unprepared crew. The fire supposedly started from a refrigerated truck running a diesel engine during navigation. Furthermore, according to the accusatory hypothesis, a plan to load the 128 TIR on board (of which about 60 refrigerators) was missing, arranged on the bridges in an approximate manner, without respecting the distance between the vehicles and the availability of elettric power, forcing hauliers to keep the engines running. And both the captain and carrier companies were full aware of this malpractice. We are also waiting to call accusation about the reason why the captain and the shipping companies have decided to prevent the intervention of the Albanian tugs to wait the arrival from Bari of the rescue, forcing the passengers to fear for their life two day on a ship adrift in flames and in the stormy sea.
In the next few weeks we will update all our clients with more detail on the following steps, about the civil case running in Bari, relations between civil and criminal proceedings, and strategies of our team in order to bring justice and compensation to all.