Costa Concordia captain looks to spread blame for accident

Mon Sep 23, 2013 10:56am EDT
 
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By James Mackenzie

GROSSETO, Italy (Reuters) - The captain of the Costa Concordia told a court on Monday that a junior officer who was at the wheel at the time shared the blame for the cruise liner disaster that killed 32 people last year.

Francesco Schettino faces multiple charges including manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning ship after the Concordia, carrying more than 4,000 passengers and crew, struck a reef off the Tuscan island of Giglio and capsized on January 13, 2012.

Tanned and wearing a grey suit, Schettino said his Indonesian helmsman had failed to carry out an order to set the rudder left in the last moments as the Concordia came close to shore, causing a fatal 13-second delay before it ran aground.

"The delay was the result of the mistake," he told the court, during a session in which expert witnesses considered the role of the helmsman as well as possible faults in the emergency generators and pumps.

"If there had not been this mistake, in not positioning the rudder to the left ... there would not have been this impact," he said.

The argument was rejected by the head of the expert committee, Giuseppe Cavo Dragone, who said that any delay appeared to be irrelevant.

"The ship would have hit the rocks in any case," he said.

Schettino, who has been in constant attendance at the hearings, chatting readily with journalists in the courtroom bar and talking often on television, has admitted that he bears responsibility for the accident as the ship's captain.   Continued...

 
The cruise liner Costa Concordia is seen at the end of the "parbuckling" operation outside Giglio harbour September 17, 2013. REUTERS/Tony Gentile