December 09, 2013
Hundreds of passengers were still aboard the Costa Concordia when the captain fled in a lifeboat, an Italian Coast Guard official confirmed to the court on Monday. He added that responders received initial notice of the shipwreck’s severity only after a passenger used a cell phone to call family.
Coast Guard Captain Gregorio De Falco, who is now revered as a national hero, repeatedly ordered Francesco Schettino, the commander on trial, to return to the badly listing vessel.
De Falco told the court that the Concordia sent out its first distress signal nearly an hour after the incident took place. Before that, the ship’s officers reportedly kept reassuring officials that everything was fine onboard, even insisting that the luxury liner had only suffered a power outage.
According to Bloomberg BusinessWeek, De Falco testified that local police informed the Coast Guard that a relative of a passenger called them to say that passengers had been ordered to throw on life vests, and that furniture was falling around them as the cruise ship began listing badly to one side. A customs police boat, which had rushed to the scene, also told the Coast Guard the ship had capsized.
The court heard recorded phone conversations between De Falco and Schettino. Also played was a recording of another conversation in which Schettino is aboard a lifeboat and mutters that there are about 10 people still on the Concordia. But the Coast Guard had heard that as many as 300 passengers and crew were still aboard.
De Falco said he ordered rescuers to be lowered from a helicopter to bring dozens of people who were clinging to parts of the ship to safety.
Many passengers and crew jumped overboard in escape attempts when lifeboats could no longer be lowered because of the Concordia’s list. Autopsies found that many of the victims who weren’t evacuated drowned aboard the ship, as water surged into the vessel.
Schettino is charged with manslaughter, abandoning ship and of causing the January 2012 shipwreck by sailing too close to the Tuscan island of Giglio. The Concordia smashed into a reef, which gashed the hull, sending water pouring in – and ending 32 lives. Schettino risks 20 years if convicted. He insists the reef wasn’t on the ship’s navigational charts and that he helped direct the evacuation after reaching land.
Media reports state that Schettino had his head down, while talking with defense lawyers, when the court listened to the conversation.
speaking of cretinous captains…I wonder where Paul Watson is hiding these days?