Former Costa Concordia captain: 'I regret nothing'
By Michelle Kosinski, Correspondent, NBC News
NAPLES, Italy -- The former captain of the Costa Concordia cruise liner says he understands why some people "hate" him, but has no regrets about his actions in the aftermath of the shipwreck that left 32 people dead.
Francesco Schettino did not attend the unveiling of memorials in Giglio, Italy, over the weekend as survivors and victims' families marked the one-year anniversary of the accident. Instead, the luxury cruise liner’s former captain was at his home near Naples, where he lives under some court restrictions.
Accused of multiple manslaughter, causing the wreck and abandoning ship, Schettino told NBC News the toughest part of the aftermath of the crash was that people think he did not try to help the situation after he took the ship off course during a sail-by salute of the coast.
“Everybody believes that I was escaping from the sinking ship,” he said. However, Schettino contended he “tried to make an effort to make sure that I was the last one to leave the ship — from the sinking side."
Schettino, who described himself as a strict captain, insisted that other people should share the blame for the accident.
He said Costa Cruises told him before the wreck that he needed to share some authority with his well-qualified, lower-ranking officers who felt he was "breathing too much down their necks."
Francesco Schettino, former captain of the Costa Concordia, says he appreciated having the opportunity to share his side of the story with a survivor of the crash.
"And unfortunately I was relying, in the last three minutes, on an officer, when all of a sudden he was handing me the control of the ship without giving me distance — nothing," Schettino said.
That, he said, was when he noticed foam on the water — a sign of shallow water or something jutting from the surface.
"I regret that I was trusting (that officer). I was trusting him before the accident, and also after the accident. And I have been living with these things inside me. I will never trust anyone anymore because this was a very deadly mistake," he said.
Schettino claimed he had no way to tell how many people were still on board when he left the vessel.
"People don't understand that the ship is 58 meters (nearly 200 feet) wide, so you don't have a chance to see who else is left on the other side. And in the moment the floor started to become steeper, you have no other option: To die, or to swim," he said. “So, I regret nothing."
Schettino said he understood why people "hate" him — but added he did not think he deserved this.
"If you lose your child -- or any member of your family because of an accident -- you start to learn to live with this kind of pain that you have inside you. But if you are not able to find a reason because you just believe you lost that person because of the stupidity or arrogance of somebody else, it is more difficult not to start to hate people," he said.
“I will do my best to relay the reasons why this tragedy took place, in a way that is very well represented, very well analyzed, simply because I don't like that people may potentially hate me,” he said.
He said he appreciated the chance to share his perspective of the crash with a survivor.
"It was a great pleasure speaking with that person — they fully understand me now. ... It would have given me great pleasure to meet the others,” he said, adding that he would wait, let the truth to come out and allow time for people to absorb it.
“I am close to anybody in this, and I join my pain to their pain, even if there is a difference,” he said. “I have the pain of a person who is responsible for the cruise ship and I have never denied that. Never."