June 27, 2019

Costa Concordia Captain Bullish At Trial

Francesco Schettino, the captain of the doomed cruise ship Costa Concordia, has fiercely defended his navigational skills as he faced cross-examination for the first time in his trial for manslaughter and abandoning ship.

In a spirited performance punctuated by jokes and constant hand gestures in which he frequently interrupted the prosecutor, Schettino tried to argue he followed procedure during the Costa Concordia’s fatal collision, rather than steering recklessly.

Schettino smashed the Costa Concordia into rocks off the Italian island of Giglio in January 2012 during an attempted “sail past”.

The holed vessel grounded and partially capsized in shallow water, forcing 4,200 passengers and crew to flee, with the loss of 32 lives.

Speaking at his trial in Grosseto in Tuscany, Schettino denied that he had organised the sail past to impress Domnica Cermontan, a Moldavian dancer who was working on the ship and has told the court she was having an affair with the married captain. 

“I didn’t do it as a favour to Cermontan,” Schettino said under questioning in Grosseto’s theatre, which has been converted into a court room for the trial.

When she entered the bridge, Ms Cermontan stood at the side the room, far from Schettino, he said.

In a combative performance, during which he often challenged the questioning of prosecutor Alessandro Leopizzi, Schettino said he had sought to “kill three birds with one stone” by undertaking the sail past.

He was doing a favour to a ship’s official and paying tribute to a former cruise captain who lived on the island of Giglio, while making the cruise more attractive to passengers, he said.

Asked about the number of people on the bridge as he took the command before the crash, Schettino argued he had always fought to keep numbers on the bridge down.

The court played a recording of the voices on the deck in the minutes leading up to the collision, during which Schettino is heard on the phone asking the former captain living on Giglio if there was enough water to sail as close as one fifth of a nautical mile from the coast.

When asked by the prosecutor why he asked that, since the ship was due to sail no closer than half a mile from the rocks, Schettino said he was not being serious.

Schettino has previously blamed the crash on the maps he was given to navigate with, and claimed the Indonesian helmsman on the bridge did not understand his instructions.

After attending the early hearings at his trial last year, Schettino has avoided the trial for five months, reportedly preparing for his performance, which is expected to run into Wednesday.

“If he wasn’t so sure of himself he would not have agreed to be questioned at the trial,” said Schettino’s lawyer Domenico Pepe before the hearing.

“He has been studying the court papers and is here to highlight all the points in his favour which have not emerged yet in court.”

Schettino, who was dubbed Captain Coward after he was accused of abandoning the stricken ship before passengers had fled, has remained a notorious celebrity in Italy, and has spent this week denying rumours he was due to appear on Italy’s version of I Am A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here.

No longer under house arrest, Schettino has addressed a group of students at a Rome university about stress control, despite allegations he panicked after the collision and failed to manage the evacuation.

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Costa Concordia Captain Bullish At Trial

Costa Concordia Completes Its Final Journey

The Costa Concordia has completed its final journey, after being towed into the Italian port of Genoa to be broken up and scrapped.

The cruise liner, around twice the size of the Titanic, struck rocks and capsized in January 2012 with more than 4,000 people on board.

The tragedy claimed 32 lives.

The damaged hull had been towed from the disaster site off the Tuscan island of Giglio to the northern port after a four-day, 175 mile (280km) journey.

The salvage operation, the biggest ever attempted, is expected to cost in the region of $2bn (£1.17bn).

“We can finally breathe a sigh of relief,” Italy’s environment minister Gian Luca Galletti said.

There were fears the damaged hull would break up under the strain and spill toxic waste into Europe’s biggest marine sanctuary, but these were unfounded.

The 114,500-tonne liner arrived overnight and weighed anchor around two nautical miles (3.6 miles) off shore.

Engineers then attached it to a number of tugboats, which manoeuvred into Voltri port at 11am UK time.

Curious locals gathered near the port on the outskirts of the city from first light to catch a glimpse of the battered ship.

The delicate operation of securing the ship is expected to be completed this afternoon.

Once the Costa Concordia is fastened in place, interior furnishings and fittings will be stripped out in order to make it light enough to tow into the scrapping area, where it will be split into three parts for dismantling.

More than 80% of it is expected to be recycled or reused.

Between 40,000 and 50,000 tonnes of steel will be melted down and reused for construction.

Undamaged copper wiring, plumbing, plastics, machinery and furniture will be recovered and sold on.

Any personal belongings recovered will be returned, while items such as the ship’s piano, which was being played as the liner struck rocks, could end up in a museum.

Another task will be to search for the body of Indian waiter Russel Rebello, whose remains were never found and may have been trapped in a previously inaccessible part of the vessel.

The ship’s captain, Francesco Schettino, is currently on trial for manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning the vessel before all passengers had evacuated.

The 53-year-old, who is fighting the charges, is accused of deliberately altering the course of the Concordia in order to carry out a sail-by salute of the island to impress local residents and passengers.

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Costa Concordia Completes Its Final Journey