THE captain of the ill-fated Costa Concordia Francesco Schettino did not "accidentally trip" and fall into a lifeboat, as he has previously claimed, but deliberately jumped to safety before all the 4,200 passengers and crew had been evacuated, an Italian court heard yesterday.
Stefano Iannelli, one of the cruise liner's officers, said he saw Capt Schettino leap aboard a lifeboat as the giant ship began to list further into the sea after crashing into rocks off the Tuscan island of Giglio.
"We found a lifeboat. I jumped on, Schettino had jumped on just before me," Mr Iannelli, a trainee officer, told a court in Grosseto, Tuscany, where the skipper is on trial for abandoning ship, causing a maritime disaster and multiple counts of manslaughter.
The disaster claimed the lives of 32 people, including a five-year-old Italian girl, and Capt Schettino (53) faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted of the charges.
"We had formed a human chain, so as not to slip," Mr Iannelli said, as he described how he and other officers tried to help panic-stricken passengers evacuate the 950ft-long ship.
The Concordia rammed into Giglio's rocky shore on January 13, 2012, after Capt Schettino apparently misjudged an attempt to sail close to the island in order to perform a "salute" for the benefit of the passengers and crew.
The trial continues. (© Daily Telegraph, London)