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Judge to rule on Costa death charge

An Italian prosecutor has formally requested a manslaughter charge against the captain of the Costa Concordia cruise ship, which crashed into a reef off Tuscany last year, killing 32 people.

The prosecutors' office in Grosseto also wants Francesco Schettino to be tried for causing a shipwreck and abandoning ship while the frantic evacuation of passengers and crew was still being conducted.

A judge must decide whether to order a trial for Schettino and five others named in the request. The others named in the indictment are all crew members, including two other officers on the bridge. The proposed charges against them vary, but all are accused of manslaughter.

Prosecutors also said Costa Crociere, the Italian cruise company, has asked for a plea bargain agreement which, if it was accepted, could see it pay a 1 million euro (£880,000) fine.

The ship went aground off the Italian island of Giglio while sailing close to the shore.

Passengers were having dinner at a gala event when the accident occurred during a Mediterranean cruise. Ship officials at first tried to minimise what happened, saying only there was a blackout, and evacuation was not immediately ordered. When the order to evacuate did come, the ship was tilting so much on one side, that many lifeboats could not be lowered.

Schettino has tried to depict himself as a hero, claiming it was his deft steering after the collision that allowed the ship to move closer to the port and help save lives. He also claimed that the reef was not marked on the ship's navigational charts. Sailors in the area say the reef is a well-known tourist attraction in the pristine waters off Giglio.

Chief prosecutor Francesco Verusio said after a sophisticated scientific and other technological investigation was carried out, "the determining cause of the events of the shipwreck, deaths and injuries, is, unfortunately, dramatically due to the human factor."


From Belfast Telegraph