Cruise tragedy death toll hits six – and 15 are still missing

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Cruise company blames captain's for 'significant human error'

Porto Santo Stefano

Rescuers were frantically searching for 15 people still missing from the wrecked cruise liner off Italy last night after managing to save two South Korean honeymooners and an Italian crewman earlier in the day.

Officials confirmed that another three bodies had been dragged from the water, bringing the death toll to six.

Foreign Secretary William Hague confirmed yesterday that all 35 Britons who had been on board were safe.

Prosecutor Francesco Verusio confirmed Francesco Schettino, captain of the Costa Concordia, was being questioned for alleged manslaughter, abandoning his ship while people were still aboard and causing a shipwreck.

The ship's operator, Costa Crociere, suggested the blame for the incident lay with Mr Schettino, saying in a statement that "preliminary indications" pointed to a "significant human error" on his part. The company addded:

"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."

Mr Schettino is understood to have claimed that rocks he struck off the island of Giglio while miles off course did not appear on charts – although the waters are well-charted.

One Giglio resident, Elena Ballerano, 32, said: "That explanation is ridiculous. Everyone who knows these waters in the slightest knows those rocks are there. The rescue wasn't very well done. But thank God it didn't happen out in open sea."

Costa Crociere denied some passengers' claims that Mr Schettino was in the boat's restaurant at the time of the accident. It insisted he was at the controls when the vessel hit a rocky outcrop off Giglio at about 9.30pm local time on Friday.

Mr Verusio appeared to accept that version of events but said the ship "was not on the right course". He added that the captain was on the bridge and was "therefore responsible for operations".

Italian rescuers continued to make forays into the 951ft vessel in the hope of finding other survivors. Three bodies – those of two French tourists and a Peruvian crew member – were recovered on Friday.

Last night, emergency teams warned that the search of the half-submerged ship was dangerous for divers because the decks were at almost a 90-degree angle and there was a risk the 114,500-tonne ship could slip off the rocks it had struck.

"This is a risky operation," coastguard commander Cosimo Nicastro said. "The ship is in waters that are [100ft] deep but it could slowly slip into the sea and sink completely."

The Costa Concordia had been carrying 3,206 passengers and 1,023 crew. Mr Verusio said its captain had "approached Giglio island in a very awkward way, hit a rock that stuck into its left side, making [the boat] list and take on a huge amount of water in the space of two or three minutes".

Prosecutors said the captain was on shore by about 11.40pm on Friday but the last passengers were not evacuated until 6am the following day. But in an interview with an Italian television channel, Mr Schettino claimed: "We were the last to leave the ship."

Yesterday it emerged that many of the waiting staff had stepped in to lead passengers off the stricken liner.

The disaster happened just hours after the ship left Civitavecchia near Rome at the start of a Mediterranean cruise that was meant to take it to Savona in north-west Italy and then to Marseille and Barcelona.

"There was panic immediately," said Francesca Sinatra, a passenger from Rome. "People were shouting and climbing on each other."

The lifeboat that she was in collided a number of times with the listing hull as it was lowered due to the angle, she added. The first alarm was sounded at 9.45pm and the "abandon ship" order given at 10.10pm as the vessel began to list rapidly with water gushing in through a 60-metre gash.

"We were lucky we were so close to the shore," said Jose Rodriguez, 43, a Honduran barman. "Thank God."

Investigators have begun to analyse the black box recovered by rescuers, which will have logged the ship's movements as well as conversations between personnel. But experts said it could be months before it became clear precisely what happened before and after the Costa Concordia crashed into the rocks.

The British ambassador in Rome visited the scene at the weekend along with diplomatic officials from more than a dozen countries. Some have been privately critical of the handling of the ship's evacuation and a lack of information about their citizens.

At least 42 people were injured, two seriously – a woman with a blow to the head and a man struck in the spine.

Cruising: The figures

190 million people took a cruise worldwide between 1980 and 2010 of which 67 per cent were in the past decade. In the early 1970s 500,000 people took cruises.

The total worldwide cruise industry is estimated to be worth £34bn

Average capacity for ships in the 1990s was 1,600. By 2010 it had climbed to 3,000

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Lou Reed distorted the truth about his upbringing, and since his death in 2013, biographers and memoirists have added to the myths
musicThe truth about Lou Reed's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths
Ed Miliband received a warm welcome in Chester
election 2015
Life and Style
Apple CEO Tim Cook announces the Apple Watch during an Apple special even
fashionIs the Apple Watch for you? Well, it depends if you want it for the fitness tech, or for the style
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own