I tripped and fell into life boat, says Captain

Jan 19, 2012, 08:49 IST | Agencies

Francesco Schettino, nicknamed Captain Coward, provided this amazing excuse while being questioned in court; he has been sent to house arrest

The captain of the Costa Concordia has now claimed he 'fell into a lifeboat' and could not escape after his fatally holed liner ran aground.

The 52-year-old -- now being called Captain Coward -- Francesco Schettino who was surprisingly released from custody yesterday and given house arrest following a hearing with an investigating magistrate, gave the amazing excuse during three hours of questioning.

Choppy: The Costa Concordia continues to slip down from its rocky
resting place, prompting fears it could soon plummet down to the bottom
of the sea owing to which officials have suspended search-and-rescue
operations. Captain Schettino has been called Captain Coward. pic/getty images

He was being held in custody on suspicion of abandoning the cruiser Costa Concordia while passengers were still onboard and multiple manslaughter with the death toll now standing at 11 and 24 still missing.

Schettino's behaviour has already been called into questioning after dramatic audio tapes revealed how a furious Coast Guard official had ordered him back onto the bridge to oversee the rescue, after he was shocked to learn he had already left the Concordia despite dozens of passengers still needing help.

Captain Schettino has been called Captain Coward. pic/getty images

The claims come as rescue divers suspended their search after the ship slipped 'a few more centimetres' from its rocky resting place, sparking fears it could soon plummet 100 metres down to the bottom of the sea.

During his hearing with investigating magistrate Valeria Montesarchio at a court in Grosseto, he stressed again he had 'not abandoned ship' and added, "The passengers were rushing all over the decks trying to scramble into the lifeboats. I didn't even have a lifejacket because I had given it to one of the passengers � I was trying to get them into the lifeboats in an orderly fashion. All of a sudden the boat listed between 60-70 degrees, I got trapped and ended up in one of the lifeboats. That's why I was in there."

He still insisted he had 'saved thousands of lives', although he admitted he had made a mistake by sailing so close to the island of Giglio tearing a 70 metre gash in the hull of the Concordia.

Prosecutors said his explanation was 'curious to say the least' and added that he would also be subjected to drug and alcohol tests as part of the investigation.

Prosecutors said they were surprised that Schettino had been given house arrest.

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Italians show anger at the cruise ship captain, Francesco Schettino, with  T-shirts screaming "Get back on board, for ----'s sake!" and the creation of Facebook pages and Twitter hashtags.
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