Astonishing video footage revealing the turmoil on the bridge of the doomed Costa Concordia vessel in the crucial hour after it crashed into rocks near the Italian coast was last night broadcast on the country's TG5 news show.
Shortly after a 50-meter hole was torn in the side the giant liner, at 9.42 pm on 13 January, after a dangerous manoeuvre close to the island of Giglio, the video shows the seemingly relaxed, almost lackadaisical, response of officers on the bridge. But within half an hour, when the gravity of the situation has sunk in, and with the ship tilting at a 20-degree angle, the footage suggests the calm has been replace by panic and disarray among senior crew members.
Then at 10.25pm a man identified in the video as Captain Francesco Schettino is seen talking on the phone while senior officers struggle to understand what is happening, with at least one shouting out: "What do we do?"
And then, around 25 minutes before the official "abandon ship" signal is given, one official is heard saying: "Passengers are getting into the life boats", to which a man believed to be Schettino replies: "Vabbuo", which means "Whatever".
Last night, Francesco Verusio, the magistrate leading the investigation into the disaster, said he would urgently seek a copy of the film – the first to show what happened on the liner before it partially capsized with the loss of 32 lives. So far 17 bodies have been recovered and 15 are still missing.
"This is new to us – I've just seen it for the first time," said Mr Verusio last night. "We've heard everything that was happening on the bridge."
Crucially the video appears to show senior officers calling for the ship to be abandoned at 10.32pm. Calls of "We're leaving the ship, abandon ship," are heard. But the official order telling passengers to evacuate the stricken vessel was not made for another 10 minutes.
Senior Italian coastguard officials have stated that had the ship been evacuated immediately after hitting the rocks instead of 76 minutes later, then there would probably have been little or no loss of life.
Last night, Corriere della Sera newspaper speculated that the sounds of heels near the mystery camera man or woman meant that the married captain's presumed lover, Domnica Cemortan, 24, may have taken the video.
She is considered a key witness after it emerged she was on the bridge when the Concordia hit the rocks, having earlier dined with Captain Schettino. She has already been grilled by the magistrate for five hours.
Captain Schettino is currently under house arrest and may be charged with multiple manslaughter and with abandoning ship before his passengers.
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