Disgraced Costa captain returns to shipwreck

Feb 28, 2014, 02:48 IST | Agencies

Francesco Schettino joined court-ordered inspection of the ship as part of his trial

Giglio Island: The captain of the Costa Concordia, Francesco Schettino, went back on board yesterday for the first time since the huge cruise liner sank with the loss of 32 lives just over two years ago, accompanying experts investigating the capsize.

The twisted wreck of the 1,000-foot-long ship, now stabilised after a complex salvage operation last year, sits propped up on underwater platforms just outside the port of Giglio, the island off the Tuscan coast where it capsized on January 13, 2012.

Bitter reunion: Two years after his risky salute caused the ship to crash, Francesco Schettino is back with his ship. During the inspection, he said that he wanted to show people he was not weak, that he was not a coward. Pics/AFP

Schettino, who faces multiple charges including manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning ship, went aboard the vessel with a expert team appointed by the court, but is only present as a defendant and is taking no active part in the investigation.

“I don’t know why he wanted to come here, maybe to see things” said Ariento Italo, a resident of the island. “I just don’t know what he is going to do — he will see things that he already knows and, anyway, everything is all smashed up.”

However, his lawyers say the investigation will be able to ascertain whether the ship’s equipment was working correctly or whether malfunctions caused the incident or worsened conditions during the chaotic night-time evacuation of the ship.

Stripped of his maritime licence, Schettino is the only person on trial after four crew members and an official of the ship operator, Costa Cruises, were sentenced to terms of up to 34 months in prison.

He has admitted that he bears responsibility for the accident as the ship’s captain. But, he says, that he is not the only person to blame and said that technical issues were at fault too.

No of people aboard the ship at the time of the event

>> Returns to site two years after ship capsized near Giglio
>> Schettino was one of the first people to abandon ship
>> 32 people died after ‘risky salute’ caused the incident

Mixed emotions on Giglio

Islanders reacted with mixed emotions to Schettino’s presence, with some saying they felt sympathy for someone they consider a ‘scapegoat’ for wider blame, and others saying he and the ship should get off the island. Said Giglio Mayor Sergio Ortelli, “When the spotlights are turned on, the pain of this event returns. The relatives of the victims and the people of Giglio need an explanation of what happened.” He further added, “More than his two-day presence, we are interested in the two-year salvage of the ship, which, we hope, will finish as soon as possible.”

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