Human error is being blamed on the Costa Concordia cruise ship disaster that claimed six lives and has left 16 passengers and crew unaccounted for. The capsized ship was traveling with over 4,000 passengers, when it ran aground late Friday off of northern Italy’s coast in the Tyrrhenian Sea.
According to the Guardian, Costa Cruises, which owns the Costa Concordia, said in a statement that its captain made an “unapproved, unauthorized maneuver.” Voice of America added that Costa Cruises said the ship’s captain made “errors of judgment” bringing the vessel too close to shore and making decisions during the emergency not consistent with company procedures and international standards.
Costa Cruises has not detailed what procedures Captain Francesco Schettino failed to follow; however, he is in jail, facing multiple manslaughter charges for “allegedly sailing off course and abandoning ship while the passengers struggled to find safety,” said Voice of America; investigators are analyzing the ship’s data recorder and prosecutors continue to question the captain.
Survivors discussed a confused and harrowing evacuation. “We were all standing there, and as the boat started going a little quicker, turning, I saw one of the cranes. It popped the life raft, and it exploded and it went boom! And it just crashed. There were two people on it, they got off I think. We saw like five people jump in the water and start swimming, and I looked and the other crane next to me, which was three feet above water, one meter above water, was like two meters below water,” one Arkansas tourist told Voice of America. Some passengers had to swim to shore, others were taken in life rafts; however, the severe and rapid tilt of the hull rendered many lifeboats unusable.
The ship, which is about 950-feet long, is constructed with 13 decks, 13 bars, five restaurants, four swimming pools, and 15 balconied staterooms, Voice of America wrote. Costa Cruises is owned by Carnival.
Prosecutors blame the crew for delaying evacuation and some reports say Schettino was ashore before all the passengers were evacuated, wrote The Guardian. Schettino maintains his nautical charts did not show the rocks that cut a 160-foot gash into the liner’s hull; however, some reports say he was saluting a colleague or former colleague on shore just before the crash.
The cruise line continued to maintain its safety record as search-and-rescue attempts were winding down and the ship began slipping off the rocks of Tuscany’s Giglio Island. Authorities fear the growing swell could create an environmental disaster. A sixth body—the last found—a man, said The Guardian, was found wearing a lifejacket in a corridor still above water.
Pier Luigi Fosci, Costa Cruises’ chairman and chief executive, apologized at a press conference in Genoa, discussing his “pain,” and telling the press that Costa’s ships’ routes are programmed, said The Guardian. Alarms sound when vessels go off course and “This route was put in correctly,” Fosci explained. “The fact that it left from this course is due solely to a maneuver by the commander that was unapproved, unauthorized, and unknown to Costa,” he added, wrote The Guardian. Despite this, the company said it will provide Schettino with “all necessary assistance,” said Fosci, who noted, “We need to acknowledge the facts, and we cannot deny human error,” The Guardian reported. Fosci described Schettino as highly skilled and qualified and that the liner passed all its recent safety checks.
Corrado Clini, Italian environment minister, warned that, “The environmental risk for the island of Giglio is extremely high. The goal is to avoid that the fuel leaks from the ship. We are working on this. The intervention is urgent,” according to The Guardian, which explained that there is a marine nature preserve off Giglio Island.