Cruise disaster: Costa Concordia owners accuse captain

The chairman and CEO of Costa Cruises on Monday blamed “human error”
by the captain of the capsized cruise ship that ran aground off Italy’s west
coast for the accident.

“The company will be close to the captain and will provide him with all
the necessary assistance, but we need to acknowledge the facts and we cannot
deny human error,” he said. Schettino had “made errors of
judgement that had serious consequences”.

Divers on Monday resumed the search for victims of the Costa Concordia
disaster as weather conditions improved following a brief suspension, the
emergency services said.

“We have resumed operations after checking that the ship has stabilised,”
said spokesman Luca Cari, adding that wind and sea conditions that had
earlier shifted the wreck had subsided.

The ship’s Italian owner, a subsidiary of Carnival Cruise lines, said: “We
are working with investigators to find out precisely what went wrong aboard
the Costa Concordia.

“While the investigation is ongoing, preliminary indications are that
there may have been significant human error on the part of the ship’s
Master, Captain Francesco Schettino, which resulted in these grave

“The route of the vessel appears to have been too close to the shore, and
the captain’s judgment in handling the emergency appears to have not
followed standard Costa procedures.”

prosecutors claim Captain Francesco Schettino, 52, had approached the
island’s coastline in a “carelessly clumsy manner” in the moments
before a catastrophic collision with an underwater rock formation that
caused the ship to list violently and eventually capsize.

Captain Francesco Schettino is due to appear before an investigating
magistrate at Grosseto on Tuesday morning to decide whether he should be
kept in custody or released while the investigation continues.

At the moment he is in Grosseto prison where he has been held since Saturday
and prosecutors are said to be objecting to his release as they fear he may
flee or interfere with evidence.

With the weather deteriorating and the sea becoming choppier, the 1,000 ft
long vessel is beginning to shift its position, raising fears that it could
slide deeper into the sea and rupture its fuel tanks.

The ship came to rest on its side in about 15m/45ft of water just outside
Giglio’s tiny harbour after smashing into a rocky shoal on Friday night and
tearing a huge gash in its hull.

A rock emerges from the hull of the luxury cruise ship Costa Concordia

“It is definitely moving,” an international salvage expert, who asked not to
be named, told The Daily Telegraph.

“We think the hull has been pierced by a couple of pinnacles of rock but if it
starts moving around a lot, it could break free, and that would be a big
problem.” The Italian fire service, which is spearheading search and rescue
operations, also confirmed that the ship is shifting as a result of the
worsening weather off the coast of Tuscany.

The death toll from Friday night’s disaster, one of the worst in the cruise
industry’s recent history, rose to six today after rescuers discovered three
more victims, including the bodies of two elderly men wearing life vests
inside the vessel. A further 15 people remained missing.

An underwater photograph of the Costa Concordia cruise ship that sank
off the coast of the island of Giglio (EPA)

The ship approached the port from the south but sailed too close to the
coastline and struck a rocky reef, known to locals as “Le Scole”,
a few hundred yards out. Islanders said they had never seen the ship try to
pass so close before. Ships usually pass by up to five miles away.

A 160ft gash was torn in the £370 million ship’s hull, causing it to take on
large quantities of water in minutes and list violently. The 4,200
passengers and crew were told to abandon ship.

Franco Verusio, the procurator of Grosseto who is leading the investigation,
said: “Schettino approached the island of Giglio in a carelessly clumsy
manner. The ship hit a reef which embedded itself in the left flank, the
ship listed and took on lots of water in the space of two or three minutes.
Captain Schettino was in command at that point. “He was the one who
ordered that course to be taken, at least according to what we have
discovered. There was someone in particular that wanted to be signalled from
the ship.”

Mr Schettino, who is being questioned on suspicion of multiple manslaughter,
claimed yesterday that the reef had not appeared on the nautical charts and
had not been picked up by the ship’s navigation systems. “We should
have had deep water beneath us,” he said. “We were about 300
metres [1,000ft] from the rocks more or less.”

Prosecutors also accused Mr Schettino of abandoning his ship “well before”
the last of his passengers, a criminal offence that can carry a sentence of
up to 12 years in jail. The captain denied this, insisting he was the last
to leave.

The Concordia capsized after the captain tried to turn around and head into
the island’s port in an apparent attempt to make it easier to evacuate.

Survivors, including 23 British passengers and 12 British crew members,
claimed the evacuation effort was “chaos”. Mr Schettino’s lawyer, Bruno
Leporatti, said his client’s manoeuvre had saved the lives of “several
hundred people”. The rescue of the Korean honeymoon couple and Mr
Giampetroni, who had a broken leg, gave hope to divers searching thousands
of cabins for the missing. The ship’s “black box” navigation system is being
examined — with officials saying that the vessel was up to four miles off

Pier Luigi Foschi, chairman and chief executive of Costa Crociere, will today
face the media for the first time at two press conferences in Genoa, as
Italian prosecutors continue to question Capt Schettino in custody.

He is reportedly being held on suspicion of multiple manslaughter and
abandoning ship.

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