Europe

Costa Concordia: Captain Schettino tried to 'impress'

Francesco Schettino testifying in court about the Costa Concordia disaster Image copyright AFP
Image caption Francesco Schettino's actions have earned him the nickname "Captain Coward" in the Italian media

The captain accused of causing the Costa Concordia disaster says he sailed the cruise ship close to a nearby island to impress passengers.

In his first testimony at his trial, Francesco Schettino said he wanted to give passengers a better view.

Mr Schettino faces charges of manslaughter and dereliction of duty.

Thirty-two people died in January 2012 after the Concordia struck an outcrop of rocks and rolled onto its side near to the holiday island of Giglio.

Mr Schettino denied rumours that he manoeuvred the ship to impress a woman who was at the helm with him at the time.

Instead, he told the court that there were "commercial" reasons behind the move.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption The vessel lay stricken for two years after the disaster before it was towed to Genoa in July to be scrapped

"I wanted to kill three birds with one stone,'' Mr Schettino said, referring to pleasing the passengers, saluting a retired captain who lived on the island, and as a favour to the vessel's head waiter, who was from Giglio.

He said he had often performed so-called "fly-bys" to impress passengers.

It was favourable "from a commercial aspect", Mr Schettino said.

Denial

Mr Schettino is being tried alone after five other defendants reached plea bargains.

The prosecutor said he would request a 20-year prison term for the captain.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Francesco Schettino was promoted to captain in 2006

The ship's owners have accused Mr Schettino of making an "unauthorised and unapproved" detour from the Concordia's set route.

He has accepted some responsibility but denies the criminal charges, and says his actions after the ship ran aground prevented a much greater loss of life.

He has blamed members of his own team, including his helmsman, for the crash.

More than 4,000 people were on board when the Concordia hit the rocks.

Mr Schettino was vilified in the Italian press after it emerged he had left the ship shortly after ordering its evacuation with hundreds of people onboard unaccounted for.

His testimony comes a month after the body of the last missing victim was recovered from the wreck of the cruise ship.

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Media captionTime-lapse footage shows how the ship was righted in an overnight operation

Costa Concordia disaster

Image copyright (C) British Broadcasting Corporation

2012

  • 13 Jan: Costa Concordia runs aground
  • 31 Jan: Search for bodies abandoned
  • 22 March: Five more bodies found in wreck
  • 24 March: Fuel removal work completed
  • 21 April: Salvage contract awarded to firms Titan Salvage and Micoperi
  • 15 Oct: Capt Schettino appears at court inquiry

2013

  • 3 Apr: Largest support platform in position
  • 9 July: Captain Schettino goes on trial
  • 20 July: Five senior crew members convicted of manslaughter
  • 17 Sept: Ship rolled upright in 'parbuckling' operation

2014

  • 14 July: Refloating operation begins
  • 27 July: Arrives in Genoa for scrapping

Special report: Costa Concordia disaster

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