ALBANY, N.Y. - A local family was on the Italian cruise ship that went down off the Tuscan coast will be returning home Monday night.
The death toll stemming from the submerged Italian cruise ship continues to rise. Officials confirming six people have died and 15 others remain missing, including a Minnesota couple. Among the more than 4,200 passengers and crew on board, and one family was from Duanesburg, NY.
Joan Fleser, her husband, Brain Aho and their daughter, Alana, say they boarded the Costa Concordia just hours before it struck a rocky reef off Italy's Tuscan coast and rolled onto its side.
"There was this big lurch in the ship and I don't know if you ever saw the Titanic, but it was a scene like right out of the movie," Fleser says. "The waiters that had been carrying food, the trays went flying."
The Duanesburg family says they were having dinner in the dining room around 9:30 p.m. Friday evening, when they heard a terrifying grinding noise and ran to the deck of the luxury cruise liner.
"We got up to the deck and people were running and very, obviously distraught, looking for life jackets and we finally found some. My husband kind of dived into these bins and grabbed three life jackets."
With only the clothes on their backs, Fleser and her family managed to make it onto a lifeboat. Once on land they used social media to let loved ones know they were okay. Stacey Thomas whose house sitting for them was relieved.
However their ordeal wasn't over, Fleser says they lost their passports and wallets on board, leaving them with no money.
After a stressful couple of days, Fleser tells NEWS10 they've been in contact with the US embassy and cruise company and have secured a way home.
"We are very lucky, its just really starting to hit us, the magnitude of the tragedy that we were involved in because when its all happening you're just in your bubble." Fleser says they've managed to get temporary passports and have booked a flight that will get them back to Albany by Monday night.
All three of them are now looking forward to ending this trip early and getting back home Monday night.
The comments from Costa Crociere chairman and CEO Pier Luigi Foschi ramped up the pressure on the captain, who already is under investigation by authorities for suspected manslaughter and as well as allegations he abandoned ship before the passengers were safe, violating the Italian navigation code.
The rescue operation was called off mid-afternoon Monday after the Costa Concordia shifted a few inches in rough seas. The fear is that if the ship shifts significantly, some 500,000 gallons of fuel may begin to leak into the pristine waters around the island of Giglio.