A woman reported missing by a Hungarian family in Italy’ s Costa Concordia cruise ship disaster in fact died three years ago, the Hungarian foreign ministry said Monday. "Based on officially confirmed information today it has become clear that claims about the missing woman were unfounded," the ministry said in a statement. "The person who made the claim about the missing person turned out to be abusing the personal data of a person who had died three years ago." On Sunday a Hungarian family contacted Italian rescuers, saying a relative had called them from the ship that capsized off the Italian island of Giglio on January 13 after running aground. The missing woman however did not figure on a passenger list, prompting officials to raise the possibility of stowaways on board the ship. ”There could have been X persons who we don’ t know about who were inside, who were clandestine” passengers,” said Franco Gabrielli, head of the Italian civil protection authority. At least 17 people are missing in the disaster and the death toll has grown to 15, including a Hungarian violinist employed on board who reportedly went back to get his instrument, according to officials. Meanwhile, a US lawyer claims that the Costa Concordia had a history of cruising recklessly close to other islands to impress passengers. Mitchell Proner of New York law firm Proner & Proner, which is planning to file a class-action suit in Miami on Wednesday on behalf of passengers in the disaster, said the ship owner would be a main target of the lawsuit. "At this point we’ re exploring numerous defendants; certainly you’ ve got (ship owner) Costa Cruise lines," Proner said. "While they might be trying to indicate that the incident is the fault of this one rogue captain, we know that they’ ve had some precedents going close to these islands along the Italian coast," he said. He said the same ship had earlier cruised dangerously close to the island of Procida in the Gulf of Naples. "Procida set up mortars and saluted and the Concordia responded by blasting their sirens. So this is something that they have done in the past as a way of generating publicity and advertising for their company," he said. "It’ s thrill-seeking for the passengers, but it’ s reckless." Proner & Proner is teaming up with Italian consumer rights’ association Codacons and another New York law firm, Napoli Bern Ripka Shkolnik, to lead the lawsuit on behalf of victims in the January 13 shipwreck, which occurred after the vessel moved too close to the shore of the island of Giglio. Fifteen people died and 17 remained missing Monday of the 4,200 passengers and crew on board in the late-night crash. Proner said they would likely file the suit on behalf of all victims on Wednesday in Miami, home base of Carnival, the giant US cruise ship operator which owns Costa Cruise lines. They would seek at least 125,000 euros ($A148,000) for each of the victims. "If they sustained injury it can be a multiple of that number. If they have a disability as a result of the incident and certainly in the cases of fatalities, we’ re expecting in excess of a million euros per individual." He said they would also be examining whether the equipment on board the vessel designed to prevent such accidents had failed or were disengaged.
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