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N.J. Couple On Italian Cruise Ship Ordeal: ‘At This Point We’re Just Happy To Be Alive’

Mike Stoll, Addie King Tell Of Passenger Confusion, Crew's Incompetence
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The cruise ship Costa Concordia lies stricken off the shore of the island of Giglio, on January 17, 2012 in Giglio Porto, Italy. (Photo by Laura Lezza/Getty Images)

The cruise ship Costa Concordia lies stricken off the shore of the island of Giglio, on January 17, 2012 in Giglio Porto, Italy. (Photo by Laura Lezza/Getty Images)

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BRICK TOWNSHIP, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — For the first time, we’re hearing from a local couple who was aboard the Italian cruise ship that ran aground, killing 11 people.

Rescue teams rappelled down the side of the doomed Costa Concordia, searching for signs of life. At this point, 24 people are still missing.

Italian naval divers blasted holes in the hull of the sinking ship, where they found five of those bodies.

Shocking new audio was also released Tuesday of the captain ignoring orders to return to the ship. CBS 2’s Chris Wragge sat down with two New Jersey residents who saw the chaos first hand and are still trying to make sense of it.

“A couple of thoughts that when through my head: I don’t want to drown to death, but the second I thought about that I also thought I can’t panic. I have to be strong for both of us,” Mike Stoll said.

PHOTO GALLEY: Italian Cruise Ship Runs Aground

It was that strength that would serve Stoll and Addie King well in crucial moments after the ship ran aground.

“At first it was a lot of confusion. Is everything okay? Are we going to abandon ship? Should we have our life jackets? What should we do? But there was no instruction from the crew,” Stoll said.

“We went outside and the first thing I said to her was the shore is close. We can make this swim if something is that wrong. And she’s like, yeah, I don’t want to talk about that right now.”

As they soon realized, something was that wrong. The ship was disabled and listing severely to the starboard side and, according to Stoll and King, passengers assembled in their muster stations, but there were still no instructions.

“That’s when I, personally, really started to panic,” Stoll said.

“When they finally told us to get on the lifeboats people were sort of screaming, ‘let us on the boats!’ but they kept telling us ‘no, no, no, we don’t need to yet,’” King said.

“When we did get on people were pushing. It was just chaos.”

The couple confirmed there was no safety drill administered at any time while on board, just a short video shown in the rooms of a ship short on a timely evacuation plan.

“We waited 45 minutes to actually board the lifeboats,” Stoll said, adding when asked if he was wondering what was going on, “Exactly, even if there’s nothing wrong with the ship at this point everyone is so panicked … let’s get off.”

Stoll and King made it to the coast on one of the life boats and immediately called home. They returned safely to the states. It wasn’t exactly the vacation they spent months planning.

“At this point we’re just happy to be alive. Not to be overly dramatic, but, it’s true, people did lose their lives, unfortunately, in this event,” Stoll said.

Wragge also asked Mike and Addie about future cruises and they could not answer fast enough. “No way” and “never again” were their answers. The cruise ship company did call them in the states to make sure they did arrive home safely.

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