Costa’s captain breaks silence about ‘banal accident’ in which 32 perished
THE captain of the Costa Concordia cruise ship has spoken for the first time on television about the “banal accident” which led to the loss of 32 lives.
Francesco Schettino, 52, is accused of multiple manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning ship, despite passengers and crew still being onboard, after the luxury liner struck a rock and sank off the island of Giglio earlier this year.
He was dubbed Captain Coward by the media after claiming he ended up in a lifeboat having “tripped and fallen” into it.
In his Italian TV interview, Schettino said: “This was a banal accident in which fate found a hole right in the interaction of human beings. I think that as a result, a misunderstanding was created and that’s why there is all this anger.
“It’s as if everyone’s head – just like the instruments onboard – went into a blackout. At that moment I had gone onto the bridge and given the order for manual navigation and I was not in charge, the navigation was in the hands of another officer.
“I blame myself for being distracted [by a telephone call]” he said, adding that a “divine hand” had then guided him saying: “I realised that something was wrong when I spotted wash and I managed to avoid a full head on collision with the rock.”
The 290-metre long ship had left port two hours before the disaster for a week-long Mediterranean cruise and was packed with more than 4,000 passengers and crew, including 30 Britons. It struck a rock, which was marked on charts, after Schettino ordered a “sail by salute” for the people of Giglio and came too close to land.
As a result a 70-metre gash was torn in its hull. Despite water pouring in, Schettino delayed giving the order to abandon ship for more than an hour.
In his interview, he insisted by turning the ship around and heading towards Giglio, instead of giving the order to abandon ship immediately, he saved lives – although experts have contradicted this saying that, by the time the evacuation was sounded, the ship was listing too much and lifeboats could not be launched properly.
Schettino added: “I think about prison but at the same time you have to understand ‘I did this so I deserve it’ but I don’t think a nautical accident is a crime. I don’t think I committed a crime.
“That night I made choices as a captain and I still feel a captain. I just want the truth to emerge – whatever it is.”
When asked if he felt he should apologise, Schettino, who was sweating profusely and had a noticeable tic, said: “It’s normal that I should say sorry as a representative of the system, to everybody. I never thought anything like this could have happened.
“My condolences and deepest sympathies are with the people who are no more, there has been a financial loss, the company and people have been affected, the captain of the ship has also been a victim of all this system but it is all insignificant compared to a mother losing her child.
“That is immeasurable but also for a captain to lose a ship is a pain that cannot be measured.”
Schettino, from Meta di Sorrento near Naples, was freed from house arrest earlier this month.
A court hearing later this month in Tuscany could shed more light on what caused the sinking, including information from a “black box” recorder. Its findings will probably feature in the court’s decision on whether Schettino should stand trial.
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