An Italian prosecutor has announced that the beleaguered Costa Concordia cruise ship captain is not the only one responsible for the historic disaster that has left 16 dead and more missing, including 17 passengers—two American.
The chief prosecutor of Tuscany, Beniamino Deidda, said in an interview, “For the moment, attention is generally concentrated on the responsibility of the captain, who showed himself to be tragically inadequate. But who chooses the captain?” wrote The Guardian. Investigators must look at the decisions made by “the employer; that is to say, the ship’s owner,” he added. Deidda is overseeing the investigation into the shipwreck and is asking those involved in the probe to look past Captain Schettino’s behavior and into that of the luxury liner’s owners, Costa Cruises.
On January 13, the Costa Concordia struck a rock off the Tuscan island of Giglio that tore a 160-foot gash in its hull, causing the vessel to capsize. The Costa Concordia, owned by the Italian company, Costa Crociera SpA, is operated by Costa Cruises, a unit of U.S.-based Carnival Corporation.
Costa Cruises has roundly blamed Francesco Schettino for the accident, citing, among other issues, cowardly behavior in a crisis. Meanwhile, Deidda who, explained The Guardian, has focused his career on health and safety cases, says that many other issues require attention. For instance, “lifeboats that did not come down, crew who did not know what to do, [and] scant preparation in crisis management.” The inquiry also seeks to answer why over an hour passed from when the liner crashed until the order to abandon ship, said The Guardian, which noted that Schettino alleges that he was in frequent contact with a company representative during that time.
Deidda pointed out that it was “absurd” that at least one a crewmember told passengers to return to their cabins; this recorded on video after the Costa Concordia ran aground, noted The Guardian. Currently, Schettino and his first officer are the only formal suspects in the case, facing charges of manslaughter, shipwreck, and illegally abandoning ship. Schettino, who was just placed under house arrest, has stated from the start that his employers should share responsibility in the crash.
Schettino reportedly took the ship four miles off course in a “fly-by” of Giglio. Members of the Italian Coast Guard and passengers reported that Schettino left the Concordia in a lifeboat long before evacuation was complete and questions have been raised about Schettino’s possible failure to raise an SOS. Reports say the Italian coast guard learned of the ship’s troubles after passengers phoned police.
A recording of a heated conversation between Schettino and an Italian Coast Guard Officer was released with the obviously furious officer heard ordering Schettino—at this time safe in a lifeboat—back to the ship to oversee the evacuation, but the Concordia captain resisted, complaining that it was too dark and that the ship was listing. At a three-hour hearing before an Italian judge this week, Schettino admitted responsibility for the crash, but disputed accusations that he abandoned the stricken ship, claiming he fell into a lifeboat when the vessel listed violently.
In the meantime, salvage experts are working to pump some 2,400 tons of fuel in the hopes of preventing an environmental disaster at the site.