Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 September 2014

Costa Concordia captain's trial hears the grim details of how Costa Concordia victims perished

Cruise ship Costa Concordia
Cruise ship Costa Concordia
Francesco Schettino
Francesco Schettino
Moldovan dancer Domnica Cemortan
Moldovan dancer Domnica Cemortan

The Italian court trying the captain of the Costa Concordia has heard grim details of how the 32 victims of the shipwreck drowned, some after diving or falling into the sea from the capsized cruise liner when lifeboats were no longer accessible.

A court official read out the names of the dead passengers and crew members, and described how each one died, quoting verbatim from the indictment of the Concordia's captain, Francesco Schettino (52). The veteran Italian mariner is the sole defendant in the trial in the Tuscan town of Grosseto.

Schettino is charged with manslaughter, causing the January 2012 shipwreck off the Tuscan island of Giglio, and abandoning ship with "hundreds of passengers and crew still aboard, unable to care for themselves or in need of co-ordination as the ship's tilt increased", the official said.

The Concordia, on a week-long Mediterranean cruise, speared a jagged granite reef when, prosecutors allege, Schettino steered the ship too close to Giglio's rocky shores as a favour to a crewman whose relatives live on the island.

The reef sliced a 230ft gash in the hull. Seawater rushed in, causing the ship to rapidly lean to one side until it capsized, then drifted to a rocky stretch of seabed just outside the island's tiny port. Survivors have described an evacuation that was so confused and delayed that by the time it got under way lifeboats on one side of the Concordia could no longer be launched because the vessel was already badly listing. The reading of the list of the victims began with the death of a Frenchman Francis Servel, who "not having found a place on the lifeboat, threw himself into the sea without a life vest".

He was "sucked toward the bottom of the whirlpool produced by the final flipping over on the right side of the ship, and then died due to asphyxiation".

Shortly after the tragedy, survivors recounted how Mr Servel gave his wife his life vest because she did not know how to swim. The bodies of two victims were never found, but after a long, futile search of the ship's interior and nearby waters, they were declared dead.

One of them was a middle-aged Italian passenger, Maria Grazia Trecarichi, who, with no place on a lifeboat, and waiting to be rescued while wearing a life vest, "slid off into the sea because of the progressive tilt of the boat" and presumably drowned, the court official said, reading from the indictment.

The other was a Filipino waiter Russel Terence Rebello. The court heard how the crewman "remained on the ship to carry out the lowering of the last lifeboats" and either fell or dived into the sea because of the Concordia's dramatic tilt and was presumed to have drowned.

Other victims drowned aboard as violently swirling water rose up inside the ship.

The court heard how some passengers were "sucked into a vortex" of water rushing into the ship when the Concordia capsized.

This happened after the crew told them to go to the other side of the ship where lifeboats were being launched, and the passengers ended up trying to walk down a tilting corridor.

FACTFILE

Yesterday was the first full-day hearing in the trial of Concordia's captain Francesco Schettino. Earlier, lawyers for Schettino said they were making a last-ditch attempt to reach a plea bargain in the case. One of his lawyers said the defence wanted a deal that would see Schettino plead guilty in exchange for a three-year, five-month sentence. Schettino risks up to 20 years if found guilty of manslaughter and the other charges. It was not immediately clear when a ruling regarding the plea bargain might come but prosecutors said they opposed it because of the "seriousness of the conduct of the accused".

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