Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 30 September 2014

Shipwreck captain 'defied orders'

A tape claims to show how the captain of the cruise ship Costa Concordia fled the scene after it got into trouble (AP)
Captain Francesco Schettino has been placed on house arrest
The cruise ship Costa Concordia leans on its side after running aground on the tiny Tuscan island of Giglio, Italy (AP)

Five more bodies have been recovered from a shipwreck off Italy as an audio tape appeared to expose the captain defying orders to return to his vessel.

The discovery of the victims took the death toll from the Costa Concordia cruise liner disaster to 11, with 23 still unaccounted for.

As the search for the missing continued, Italian media published a recording of a conversation between Captain Francesco Schettino and the port authorities in which the captain was ordered not to abandon his stricken ship after it hit rocks on Friday night.

Schettino had begun by claiming everything was fine, shortly before the ship keeled over off the Tuscan coast with 4,200 on board, according to the timings of the recording.

At 9.49pm he was asked by a port official over the ship radio: "Concordia, is everything ok?" The response from the ship was "positive", Il Fatto Quotidiano reported.

But five minutes later the operations room at Livorno port was said to have contacted the liner again after a passenger had allegedly reported a problem and mentioned the word "shipwreck".

By 12.42am, the captain was said to have claimed there were only about 40 people missing and said he was not on board. The recording of his conversation with Italian coast guard Captain Gregorio De Falco indicated his response was met with fury and an order that he return to his ship.

"You go on board and then you will tell me how many people there are," Captain De Falco reportedly shouted. "Is that clear?" But Schettino resisted, saying the ship was tipping and that it was dark. At the time, he was in a lifeboat and said he was co-ordinating the rescue from there.

Captain De Falco shouted back: "And so what? You want to go home, Schettino? It is dark and you want to go home? Get on that prow of the boat using the pilot ladder and tell me what can be done, how many people there are and what their needs are. Now."

Prosecutors have accused Schettino of manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning his ship before all passengers were evacuated. He has been held in jail but, after a court hearing, is reportedly being placed under house arrest in Naples.

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