Costa Concordia Captain, Cruise Line Executives Targeted By Italian Prosecutors

Italian prosecutors are targeting Costa Concordia cruise ship captain, Francesco Schettino, and cruise line executives. The luxury liner is accused of negligence and fraud after it struck a rock off the coast of the Italian island of Giglio; Schettino is accused of causing the ship to crash, abandoning ship, and multiple cases of manslaughter.

The collision tore a 160-foot hole in the ship’s hull, causing the vessel to capsize. Some 4,200 passengers and crew were on board when the luxury liner crashed, killing at least 25; 7 remain missing and are presumed dead. This week, divers found eight more bodies, including a five-year-old girl, on a sunken liner deck, said Reuters.

Reuters wrote that Schettino made a number of errors that were worsened by more onshore failures at the hands of the ship’s operators, according to the prosecution. Prosecutors accuse the captain of causing the accident by bringing the liner too close to shore, which led to the gash that allowed water to flood the engine rooms. Schettino was performing a “salute,” a display maneuver, but prosecutors say that there are broader issues in how the accident was managed.

For instance, prosecutors say Schettino slowed the ship down while dining the night of the accident, then sped up to 16 knots to make up the time, even though the ship was in shallow water and his nautical charts were neither appropriate nor sufficiently detailed to reveal obstacles, such as the rock on which the ship crashed. According to the report, far too many people were near the bridge at impact, including a friend of Schettino’s, which prosecutors say “generated confusion and distraction for the captain,” Reuters reported. Schettino also did not perform needed maneuvers to avoid the crash, never activated the procedures in place to seal the ship, neglected to take charge of the crew following the crash, and spent far too much time sounding the general alarm and ordering the ship’s evacuation.

Prosecutors also blame Costa’s crisis unit of being “culpably unaware of the real situation on board the ship” and of never appropriately verifying information it received from the captain. The unit is also faulted for limiting itself to “bureaucratic aspects … and to the future prospects of repairing the ship,” the report said, wrote Reuters.

Schettino is now also accused of two additional counts, said Reuters: Abandoning incapacitated passengers and neglecting to inform maritime authorities. Tests indicate that Schettino was not on drugs at the time of the crash, according to officials involved.

Meanwhile, the ship’s first officer, Ciro Ambrosio, along with seven other ship’s officers and Costa Cruises executives, are under investigation. Executives include Costa Cruises vice president, Manfred Ursprunger and the company’s crisis unit head, Roberto Ferrarini, said Reuters, noting that Schettino was in contact with Ferrarini during the evacuation.

Pretrial hearings and an investigation of the ship’s “black box” recorders are scheduled to initiate on March 3, said Reuters. Costa and its owner company, Carnival Corp., also face a number of lawsuits filed by victims’ families, survivor passengers, and crewmembers. In just one case, dozens of survivors joined a Florida lawsuit in which 38 passengers are suing for about $528 million. Passengers involved are from the United States, Italy, Venezuela, China, Canada, Germany, Korea, and Kazakhstan.

In France, passengers have filed legal complaints and in Germany, 19 people have filed criminal charges against Francesco Schettino, the ship’s captain, who remains under house arrest. Schettino admitted responsibility for the crash, but blames the liner’s faulty equipment.

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