Michigan couple on the Italian shipwreck disaster

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Courtesy of The Detroit News:

Dr. Steven and Kathryn Ledtke of Fort Gratiot were on a cruise ship in the Tyrrhenian Sea that ran aground off the coast of the Italian island Giglio.

Christopher, an infectious disease fellow at Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, said he couldn’t find anything to confirm the crash on Friday.

“Initially, I thought it was a joke, or they were doing a drill or something,” he said. “There was no news report of this until Saturday morning. … My wife actually called the travel agency and the cruise line, and they didn’t know anything.”

His fears were alleviated Saturday night when his mother made a Facebook post, saying she and his father were safe in a lifeboat in Italy. His mother borrowed a cellphone from someone else in the raft to reach out and attached a dark photograph of the ship leaning to one side.

“Scared, but safe. Love, Mom,” read the post, he said.

They made it back to Michigan around 6 p.m. Monday night after flying into Metro Airport from two nights in a Rome hotel.

Their cruise ship already had been aground for an hour and a half before they filed onto a raft and filled it over capacity Friday night, the Ledtkes said.

“We were in there like sardines,” Kathryn Ledtke said Tuesday, fighting off tears. “And we kept thinking, ‘We’re going to drop.’”

They were among the survivors of the crash that killed at least 11 people and has dozens still missing. Two of the missing are Americans, identified by their family as Jerry Heil, 69, and his wife Barbara, 70, from White Bear Lake, Minn.

“It was great to be home, that’s for sure,” said Kathryn Ledtke, a flight attendant and nurse. “The whole thing was just unnecessary. I just can’t believe that he did that.”

Christopher said his parents are “pretty seasoned cruisers” with about 12 under their belt. His father, Steven, works as a physician in Fort Gratiot, but has been a cruise doctor a handful of times. His mother, Kathryn, has also worked as a nurse on some of the cruise ships.

This trip, though, was supposed to be a vacation.

Officials have claimed Capt. Francesco Schettino intentionally strayed from the ship’s authorized course into waters too close to the perilous reef, causing the Costa Concordia to crash late Friday and capsize.

The Associated Press contributed.

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