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Nine months after the Costa Concordia cruise ship smashed into the Tuscan island of Giglio, one passenger is finally set to get his suitcase back after it washed ashore 17 miles away on a different island.

The suitcase, which was found on a beach on the island of Elba on Monday, belonged to an Austrian man who was among the 4,300 passengers and crew who fled the vessel as it capsized in shallow water in January, leaving 32 people dead.

Found by children, the suitcase contained clothes and was identified by cruise ship stickers and a handwritten baggage tag – still legible after its sea voyage.

A source close to the team now attempting to right the Costa Concordia said the bag might have tumbled out of the ship and into the sea during rough weather on 31 October.

The 114,500-tonne ship is now balancing on two underwater granite rock outcrops which have punctured holes in the hull, said the source. “Objects like mattresses tend to come out of the holes and I would not rule out the storm surging through the holes and pushing out the suitcase. After the storm divers did find material on the seabed, which is collected.”

Costa Crociere, the owner of the ship, has chosen not to cut the ship up on site but to right it, float it and tow it away in one piece in order to avoid tonnes of rotting material still inside the ship spilling out into the surrounding protected marine area.

Photo Credit: A general view of the capsized cruise liner Costa Concordia surrounded by cranes, near the harbour of Giglio Porto, October 12, 2012. Max Rossi / Reuters