Language student died in ship tragedy

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A FORMER language student who adored spending time in Hastings lost her life in the Costa Concordia cruise ship tragedy during a trip to celebrate her 50th birthday.

Maria Grazia Trecarichi’s body was identified by DNA analysis and became the last victim to be named following the disaster at Giglio off the Italian coast.

The mother-of-one was onboard the ship celebrating her 50th birthday when it capsized on the night of Friday 13 January, 2012.

It is believed that Maria was in a lifeboat waiting to get off the boat when she realised she could not find her friend Luisa Virzi. So she went back on to the vessel to find her. Maria’s daughter Stefania and her boyfriend where also on board. Stefania and her boyfriend where saved, Luisa died that night as part of the tragedy but until now Maria’s body had not been found. It was reported that scuba divers found her remains near the fourth deck. They were located along with that of the other last missing person Indian waiter Russel Rebello bringing an end to an agonising 20 month wait for information for their families.

Maria first came to Hastings as a language student in 1998 and stayed with councillor Nigel Sinden at his family home for six months. They became close friends and Nigel went to visit Maria and her family on the island of Ischia in 2000. In 2002 Nigel took his family to Sicily to stay with Maria. They remained in regular contact right up until a month before the tragedy when she called to say how excited she was about the cruise around the Mediterranean.

Nigel, who lives off The Ridge, was stunned when he spotted a facebook posting last month which read: “Sad news to come about Maria Grazia Trecarichi.”

The father-of-two said: “I received a phone call from one of her friends to tell me the news. I was devastated. She was such a lovely person. I had only spoken to her a few weeks before. She was looking forward to her birthday trip and hoped to visit Hastings and the Beer Festival the next year. She was only reported missing at first but as the time went by and she was not found the more hopeless we felt”

“ My family and her friends here in Hastings will miss her, Maria loved this area; she would walk along to the pier in the rain, visit the Caves, the Old Town, and was fascinated by the Morris men who she would dance along with. Our families developed a good friendship and stayed in touch. She was a happy-go-lucky person and enjoyed herself during her stays and ended up speaking good English. It sounds to me that she may have been trying to rescue her friend Luisa which just goes to show how kind and generous she was. One day we will return to Sicily pay our respects to the family.

“As a family we can now say goodbye and thank you to Maria Grazia, a lost friend to us and the town.”