Costa Concordia Captain, Francesco Schettino, Accused of Abandoning His Ship
By Athena Yenko | May 23, 2013 10:26 AM EST
Over a year after the Costa Concordia Disaster, court in Italy summoned the captain of the Italian cruise ship to face trial on charges of manslaughter and other related charges that caused the lives of tourists back in January 13 2012, The New York Times reported.
The trial date for Captain Francesco Schettino, 52, was set on July 9. The court accused him of neglectfully running the ship aground Isola del Giglio Tuscany. His negligence caused the death of 32 people. To make his act worse, he abandoned ship while there were still 4,229 passengers and crew members on the ship.
The incident, most famously dubbed as the Costa Concordia Disaster, happened when the ship carrying 4, 252 tourists from all over the world capsized as she hit a reef when the ship was doing near-shore salute to the locales of the island in Isola del Giglio, Tuscany.
The ship hit the reef because Captain Schettino did not follow the ship's computer-programmed route saying that he had mastered the area. As soon as the ship collided into a reef, the ship lost its electricity and the water started coming in from the engine room.
Captain Schettino, even being aware that he had totally lost control of the shift, tried to maneuver the ship back to its original course and then made a U-turn back again to the Giglio. This maneuver caused the ship to capsize and Captain Schettino ordered evacuation before alerting the nearby harbor for help and assistance. The passengers alerted harbor authorities themselves.
The evacuation lasted for six hours and the rescue lasted for several months.
Costa Concordia was said to be the biggest ship on record to be abandoned by her captain, hence, Captain Schettino had been facing dire scrutiny from media all over the world.
Captain Schettino said that part of the itinerary of the ship given by his officials was to get close to Giglio for the tourists to enjoy sightseeing. The ship then hit a rock which slashed open its gull and then water started coming in until the ship was partially sunk.
A pre-trial hearing against Captain Schettino was held Wednesday in Grosseto, a city in Tuscany nearby where the Costa Concordia Disaster happened.
Lawyer for Captain Schettino, Francesco Pepe said that the captain's indictment certainly did not come unexpected. He said that his client was always attentive and focused on the case, "It's like a driver whose bus goes offroad. He had an accident and did all he could to reduce its consequences."
Captain Schettino was not the only one accused of the incident. One official from the Costa Cruises and other four crew members of the ship but they all sought for plea bargains and to be judged separately. The five other defendants were saddened by the fact that only Captain Schettino was set to face the trial.
Cesare Bulgheroni, lawyer for a group dubbed as Justice for the Concordia representing 100 survivors, said that "Nobody expected Schettino not to stand trial. But he is not the only one to be held responsible. Had the company not responded so slowly to the accident and allowed the ship to navigate so close to shore, the shipwreck would have had lesser consequences."
Costa Cruises had entered a $1.28 million plea bargain with the prosecutors as payment for administrative charges against its crew. A spokesman for the company said that 80 per cent of people on the ship had already accepted compensation for the damages.
Lawyer representing the island of Giglio, Alesandro Maria Lecci, said that the island sought damages from Costa Cruises amounting to 80 million euros ($103 million). Mr. Lecci explained that after a year and a half after the accident, we still can not quantify the damage to the island. "Eighty million euros is certainly not a definitive figure."
Tourism in the Giglio island decreased to 30 per cent since last year and the locales of the islands were uprooted by the wreck. The 951-foot-long cruise ship remained capsized just outside the entrance of the island's port for 16 months. Technical difficulties delayed the removal plan of the ship.
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