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Human error 'behind' cruise tragedy

Owners of the wrecked Costa Concordia cruise ship have said "preliminary indications" suggested the captain may have been guilty of "significant human error".

Francesco Schettino was reportedly being questioned by Italian prosecutors on suspicion of multiple manslaughter and abandoning ship after five people were killed in the cruising tragedy off the Tuscan coast on Friday night.

Costa Cruises, the luxury ship's owners, issued a statement calling into question Capt Schettino's judgment.

It said: "We are working with investigators to find out precisely what went wrong aboard the Costa Concordia. While the investigation is ongoing, preliminary indications are that there may have been significant human error on the part of the ship's Master, Captain Francesco Schettino, which resulted in these grave consequences.

"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."

The owners added: "We are aware that the lead prosecutor has levelled serious accusations against the ship's Captain, who joined Costa Crociere in 2002 as a Safety Officer and was appointed Captain in 2006, after acting as Staff Captain as well. As all Costa Masters, he has been constantly trained passing all tests."

The company paid tribute to its staff, applauding them for their work in helping evacuate 4,200 passengers and crew from the listing vessel. The statement continued: " Over the past 48 hours, more than 1,100 Costa employees have been working tirelessly in the wake of this terrible event. We are working closely with the authorities to support ongoing search and rescue operations, and are focusing on ensuring that all guests and crewmembers return home safely."

And added: "As we are learning more about the event itself and the evacuation, however, it is becoming clear that the crew of the Costa Concordia acted bravely and swiftly to help evacuate more than 4,000 individuals during a very challenging situation. We are very grateful for all they have done.

"Costa is committed to ensuring that no such incident ever occurs again. Our number one priority is always the safety and security of our guests and crew and we comply with all safety regulations."

Capt Schettino told Italian television he was not to blame for the ship, built in 2006, crashing into rocks. He said: "I don't know if it was detected or not, but on the nautical chart it was marked just as water and some 100-150 metres (328ft-492ft) from the rocks, and we were about 300 metres (984ft) from the shore, more or less. We shouldn't have had this contact."

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