January, 18 2012 11:51:25

Italy captain denies abandoning ship as toll hits 11

GIGLIO ISLAND, Italy – The "most hated man in Italy," the captain of the doomed Italian cruise liner Costa Concordia, was put under house arrest for manslaughter as the death toll hit 11 with some 20 people still missing.

Francesco Schettino was placed under house arrest on Tuesday over the running aground of the enormous vessel off Giglio island in Tuscany, after which he allegedly abandoned ship before all the passengers and crew were saved.

A dramatic port authority recording of a telephone exchange as the disaster unfolded late Friday showed that captain Francesco Schettino ignored an order to return to the vessel after it hit rocks and pitched onto its side.

Schettino, 52, described by the daily Corriere della Serra as "the most hated man in Italy," is accused of multiple manslaughter and abandoning ship before all the passengers were rescued.

Italian media said Schettino, jailed in the central Italian town of Grosseto by order of prosecutor Francesco Verusio who said he feared a "risk of flight," would be released from prison on Wednesday morning.

Police leaving the prison told journalists outside that the captain had already been freed, but this could not be officially confirmed.

Schettini denied Tuesday he had abandoned ship, as rescue divers found another five bodies in the wreckage, bringing the death toll to 11.

Under lengthy questioning by Italian prosecutors, Schettino said his actions as the boat was going down near Giglio had saved many lives.

"The captain defended his role on the direction of the ship after the collision, which in the captain's opinion saved hundreds if not thousands of lives," his lawyer Bruno Leporatti said. "The captain specified that he did not abandon ship."

The Corriere della Sera said Schettino told prosecutors that he was at the helm when disaster struck, but later fell into the sea and could not get back on board the tilting vessel.

Leporatti backed the claim, telling journalists: "The ship in that moment was tilted over by 90 degrees."

He also said the captain "carried out a brilliant manoeuvre" after the collision, and had "kept his wits about him," managing to steer the vessel towards the shore and "save a number of lives."

But according to investigators, the flooded engine rooms would have made it impossible for Schettino to navigate the 114,500-tonne ship, which drifted closer to a tiny port on Giglio before capsizing.

Schettino, who was arrested along with his first officer, Ciro Ambrosio, on Saturday, has yet to be formally charged, while a judge ruled Tuesday that he should be placed under house arrest, Leporatti said.

Chief prosecutor Verusio said he did not understand how Schettino could be released from jail as he was a flight risk and risked 15 years in prison.

The grilling of Schettino came as another five bodies were discovered after the Italian navy used explosives to blow seven holes in the upturned hull of the Costa Concordia, bringing the death toll to 11.

About two dozen people are still missing.

"The five victims are a woman and four men, who could be passengers but we are not sure, they are between 50 and 60 years old," said coastguard spokesman Filippo Marini. He said the victims were wearing life jackets. AFP

Send Us Your Comments:
Your E-mail address:

VietNamNews may edit your comments and not all emails will be published.


Mountains of coal sludge still threat to lives in Quang Ninh Mountains of coal sludge still threat to lives in Quang Ninh

Wiping sweat from his forehead, 36-year-old Trinh Duc Sang took big strides along a road covered with muddy coal sludge and dirt to the place that was his home until just three weeks ago. He climbed a rickety ladder that buckled under his weight to reach his neigh-bour's house overlooking a creek. From there, he crossed into his old home.

Doctors treat patients for free at clinic in Ha Noi Doctors treat patients for free at clinic in Ha Noi

For more than 20 years, Dang Thi Nhan, 67, has been waking up about 30 minutes earlier each day to bake cakes or prepare tea for two retired doctors in a clinic near her house in Ha Noi's Giap Bat Ward.

Wounds begin to heal between US, Viet Nam 1    Wounds begin to heal between US, Viet Nam

Pham Ba Lu swore thousands of times that he "would not live under the same sky as the United States".

Water resources, eroding land need saving Water resources, eroding land need saving

Water management has become a major topic of discussion in recent years among Viet Nam's lawmakers, experts and society. The country has been struggling to deal with water-related issues such as a rising sea level, land subsidence and saline intrusion in the Mekong Delta. Lawmakers and experts shared their views on water management with Viet Nam News reporters Thu Van and Hoang Anh.