Costa Concordia trial: Footage ‘shows Captain Francesco Schettino preparing to flee sinking cruise ship’

Schettino denies that he is guilty of manslaughter, after he steered a cruise ship close to a Tuscan island and crashed into rocks

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The Independent Online

A video has emerged allegedly showing the captain of the Costa Concordia ship preparing to leave the sinking cruise liner, while hundreds of passengers were still on board.

The footage leaked to Italian media is being used against captain Francesco Schettino by prosecutors, as he stands trial over the tragic sinking of the vessel which he steered too close to Giglio Island on 13 January, 2012.

He is charged with manslaughter, causing a shipwreck, and abandoning ship. 32 people died in the incident, most of whom drowned inside the 290m vessel, after the call to abandon ship had been delayed for nearly an hour.

Shot by fire-fighters from the shore of the Tuscan island, the video appears to show Schettino dressed in a suit and tie, standing on the ship near a lifeboat which is being boarded by some crew members and passengers.

At the trial being held in a theatre in the nearby town of Grosseto, the captain yesterday gave evidence in his own defence for the first time. He faces trial alone, after five other defendants reached plea deals, and faces more than 20 years in prison if found guilty.

The captain rejects allegations that he abandoned ship, and instead claims he was thrown into the water as the ship rolled onto its side.

Schettino also said that he steered close to Gilgio “to kill three birds with one stone”, arguing he was paying tribute to a retired commander living there – who was on the mainland, it later emerged – to do a favour for the maitre d' from Giglio, and as a treat for passengers.

Accusing his former crew of behaving like students on a school trip, Schettino yesterday blamed them for not warning him of potential dangers as he steered the liner dangerously close to the island, the International Business Times reported.

He also denied allegations that he took the route to impress a Moldovan dancer he had brought to the bridge, after the woman testified the two were lovers.

Outraging the Italian public, today he claimed that as captain he was “second only to God” on the ship, and explained that the delayed raising the alarm after the liner crashed so as not to scare passengers, fearing they would cast themselves into the deep water in fear.

Concordia.jpg
The wreck of the luxury cruise ship Costa Concordia before it was towed away

In his defence, Schettino’s representatives said the collision did not cause any fatalities in itself, and blamed a failed backup generator and supposedly watertight compartments which became flooded with water for creating problems as people were evacuated from the boat.

But the newly released footage, alongside a recording of a port official in ordering him back on board to oversee the evacuation of passengers, and images shown earlier in the trial in which passengers accuse the crew of “not telling us anything” paints a different picture.

Prosecutors reject the idea that steering close to the island would have benefited the cruise company as a marketing tactic, and said that passengers would have only seen the island as a shadow in the dark.

The trial is expected to continue into the new year.

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