(Bloomberg) – Francesco Schettino faced survivors and relatives of the victims of the Carnival Corp (CCL)’s Costa Concordia for the first time since the sinking of the cruise ship he captained as he appeared in court to hear the evidence against him.
“The truth needs to be cleared up,” Schettino told one survivor at the closed-door hearing, news agency Ansa reported. The man had approached him to shake hands, expressing his wish that “the truth will come out soon,” Ansa said. The hearing was held in a theater in Grosseto, Italy to handle the hundreds of survivors and families of some of the 32 victims of the sinking.
“It has been a normal hearing with the defense raising some procedural exceptions,” Francesco Pepe, one of Schettino’s lawyers, said in an interview with SkyTG24.
The hearings on the experts’ review will allow a judge to decide whether to go ahead with a trial against Schettino for his role in the disaster off the Tuscan coast in January. He is accused of steering the ship with more than 4,000 passengers on board too closely to the island of Giglio as a way of saluting the inhabitants and a veteran captain of the Costa line. Schettino is accused of leaving the ship before all passengers were evacuated.
The experts’ review of the black box recordings may also clarify any possible responsibility of Costa Crociere SpA. Carnival’s Italian unit said Sept. 13 that accusations that its staff was unprepared for emergencies is “without foundation” and blamed the captain for an untimely and partial communication with the company. Costa Crociere is not targeted in the probe.
Coast Guard Commander Gregorio Maria De Falco repeatedly ordered Schettino to get back on the cruise liner, at times swearing at the captain, court documents show. Schettino initially told the official that only 40 people remained on the ship at a time when hundreds were still trying to evacuate. The ship began listing, complicating efforts to lower lifeboats and forcing passenger to move across the exposed hull to reach rescue boats.
Schettino insists that he saved hundreds of lives by maneuvering the stricken ship close to the shore of Giglio after it struck a reef and began taking on water. Schettino is appealing his dismissal by Costa Crociere, his lawyer said in a statement Oct. 10.
The Costa Concordia still lies on its side in relatively shallow water off of Giglio. The company plans to refloat the ship and remove it next year.
– by Andrew Davis, (c) 2012 Bloomberg