LOS ANGELES (CBS) β€” Los Angeles resident Jonathan Garcia says his wife, Debbie Ananias’s family described the experience as something like “being on the Titanic.”

Local Family Among Last To Escape Wrecked Cruise Ship, KNX 1070’s Ed Mertz Reports

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His wife’s parents and two sisters — respectively Dean, Georgia, Cindy and Valerie Ananias — were among the 4,000 passengers on the Costa Concordia that hit a reef, suffered a gash to its hull, took on water, and began sinking off the Italian coast Friday.

And according to an account in USA Today, the Ananias clan were among the last people off the ship.

At least three passengers are reported dead and as many as 40-50 people are still unaccounted for.

Garcia says, “It’s unbelievable, it’s surreal, I still can’t believe that it happened.”

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His in-laws related to him that the ship suddenly grew “pitch black” and began tilting badly to one side.

With only the tiny lights on their life vests to guide them, the group made it safely off the ship. Many passengers jumped into the water when the ship started to sink.

Garcia says his in-laws told him panic on the ship was rampant. He even has trouble finding words to describe their ordeal. He believes at one point they all had to shimmy down a rope to get to safety.

His very unnerved family cannot wait to be back in America and on solid ground. He says matter-of-fact, “They’re all extremely shaken up and they just want to come home…and I don’t blame them.”

Debbie told KCAL9 that her family pretty much escaped “literally with just the clothes on their backs.”

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USA Today spoke to Georgia Ananias, 61. They said she choked up as she recounted the moment when an Argentine couple handed her their 3-year-old daughter. “He said ‘take my baby,'” Mrs. Ananias said, covering her mouth with her hand, and tearing up. “I grabbed the baby. But then I was being pushed down. I didn’t want the baby to fall down the stairs. I gave the baby back. I couldn’t hold her. I thought that was the end and I thought they should be with their baby,” she said.