Reports from the crew members
(crew member, cook – Torre del Greco – Napoli)
Crew member: Venanzio Langella
Task: Cook aboard Michelangelo
Event: Accident happened to the Michelangelo on 12 April 1966
Route: Genova – New York
We sadly communicate that Mr. Venanzio Langella is on 25 October 2008 deceased. He was our first testimony from someone who was onboard during the accident of the Michelangelo of the 12 April 1966. He ws 94 years old.
“It was 12 April 1966. Some days before, Captain Giuseppe Soletti expressed his wishes for a good Easter to the entire crew. I remember the night before the accident, the sea was relatively calm. but on that crucial morning, when the alarm rang at 5:00AM (I worked as cook in the officer’s canteen), sea conditions had drastically changed. Looking from the porthole in the officers’ kitchen, which was located at the center-prow of the ship, I saw enormous waves, which grew larger and larger. I photographed them in my mind images of waves tall as the Vesuvio volcano, hitting against the ship. I say this, because I live at the foot of Vesuvio and it remains in my mind to our situation that morning: many mountains of water that furiously hurled against the ship, I would say “many Vesuvio are hitting the ship”.
In my whole life in service on the sea (from 1927 to 1973), I never saw waves of this size. I remember that on that morning, the kitchen’s Chef, seeing the conditions of the sea suggested to prepare stockfish at Genoese and omelette with artichoke, avoiding any food that could provide further seasickness.
Each time I went to take a look on the deck to check conditions of the sea and I noticed that the storm had gotten worse. It was about 9:00 AM, I returned to the kitchen to prepare the food.
My feelings as well as for my colleagues of the crew were quite normal….we’ve been through storms before.
Around 9:40 AM I was in the kitchen and I noticed that outdoor things were getting worse, the prow of the ship was encountering strong inclinations and it was becoming difficult for the ship to ascend the waves.
Both me and my co-worker had difficulties balancing while standing up, fortunately all the pots and pans had been previously secured to avoid damages.
I was right ascending again on the deck to check what was happening, because although I was a “sea wolf” with 36 years long experience, I was having a bit of fear and I was worried. I knew that we were going to rescue an English cargo ship that was having difficulty and had lost 5 crew members in the sea, because of the waves. When I arrived up, and exactly on the boat deck beside the wheel bridge, I saw an enormous wave rushing with a furious strength toward below the wheel bridge. In that moment the prow of the ship was unable to lift herself from under the waves for about 3-4 seconds. Toady, told in this way, but during the event they seemed never ending. In those few seconds I said to myself “Here we all die”, because if another wave was to hit immediately after the last one, the prow of the ship might sink. This was my first thinking in that moment. Fortunately it didn’t happened.
When I recovered from the shock and fear, I noticed the damages caused by the wave and I saw a deep recess in the wall below the wheel bridge. After the impact there was an unreal silence aboard the ship, evidently all people were shocked. Afterward I learned that 2 passengers were died and many crew members injured. I remember also that some airplanes came around the Michelangelo, maybe for check the damage or ask if we would need any help. I was told that the ship that we were on route to rescue, sank with loss of lives.
We were a few days out from New York. On arrival temporary reparations were performed to the damaged part of the ship, sufficient for proceed with the return journey to Italy, where the definitive reparations were fulfilled.
This is my statement of that unforgettable journey and I disembarked from Michelangelo on 4 December 1966″.
(Torre del Greco – Naples, 4 August 2004)
We are thank to Mr. Saverio Pomposo, friend of Mr. Venanzio Langella, for have provided to gather this statement.