Captain of the Costa Concordia, Francesco Schettino, told his crew 'Let's go and do this Giglio s*** then' before taking the cruise liner within half a mile of island on night of disaster
Capt Francesco Schettino ordered his navigator to change route so that the ship passed within just a few hundred yards of Giglio, far off its designated course, a court heard on Tuesday.
“Let’s get really close to Giglio, I love doing these salutes. Let’s go and do this Giglio s***,” the captain told his crew, as the ship prepared to set out from the Italian port of Civitavecchia on the night of January 13, 2012, at the start of a week-long cruise of the Mediterranean.
Audio recordings from the bridge, which were played in court, showed that Capt Schettino made the remarks at 6.27pm that evening.
Just over three hours later, he accidentally slammed the 950ft-long cruise liner into rocks off Giglio, tearing a giant gash in the vessel’s hull, which immediately started flooding with water.
The cruise ship capsized in shallow water outside the entrance to Giglio’s main harbour, with 4,200 passengers and crew having to scramble onto lifeboats or jump into the sea and swim to land.
Not everyone made it – 32 people died, including a five-year-old girl.
Capt Schettino spoke in Neapolitan dialect, rather than standard Italian, when he told Simone Canessa, the ship’s navigator, to change the ship’s route.
The officer told the court in Grosseto, Tuscany, where Capt Schettino is on trial for manslaughter and abandoning ship, that he was not explicitly told the reason for the change of course.
“I wasn’t directly given any information but I heard that it was to perform a salute, for the benefit of members of the crew who came from Giglio,” he said.
Capt Schettino reportedly performed the sail-past to impress Antonello Tievoli, the ship’s maitre’d, who was from Giglio, and Mario Palombo, a sea captain and friend who was on the island that night and with whom he was in contact by telephone.
The court also heard an audio recording of the desperate moments after the ship crashed into the rocks and the captain realised the enormity of what had happened.
As water flooded into the engine rooms and a power black-out sparked fear among the passengers dining in the ship’s restaurants, Capt Schettino called Roberto Ferrarini, the head of the crisis unit of Costa Cruises, the Genoa-based company that operated the ship.
“Roberto, I took the ship past Giglio. Palombo was telling me ‘sail close, sail close’. I hit the rocks. I’m destroyed, I’m dead, don’t say anything to me.”
Another witness, first mate Giovanni Iaccarino, said that the captain put his head in his hands and told the officers on the bridge: “I messed up”.
Mr Iaccarino told the court on Monday that he was using his Playstation in a crewmate’s cabin when the ship hit the rocks.
He rushed to the bridge, where instruments showed that the ship had lost propulsion, but was surprised at the captain’s calm demeanour.
"He was completely lost," he said. "He was out of his routine mental state. He was under shock. He wasn't the person I knew."
Mr Canessa, the navigator, also said Capt Schettino showed chronic indecision as he contemplated the loss of his ship.
“I was saying to him very insistently that he needed to do something, to give the general emergency signal, but he was telling us to wait,” he told the court.
“At first he gave the impression of having everything under control and initially us officers were less insistent, but then we started shouting and screaming at him to give the emergency signal.”
It was only much later that the skipper gave the order to abandon ship.
He also made a point of going below to change out of his captain’s uniform and into civilian clothes, allegedly in an effort to blend in with passengers when he abandoned ship before the evacuation was completed.
“I saw him later and he was wearing a blue jacket,” said Mr Canessa. “He had changed out of his uniform.”
As panic broke out on the bridge after the collision, Capt Schettino turned to Domnica Cemortan, a Moldovan ship's dancer whom he had had dinner with that night, and told her "You will be saved", according to Mr Canessa, the navigator.
Ms Cemortan was not the only non-officer on the bridge. "There were other girls, hostesses," Mr Canessa said.
On Giglio, meanwhile, officials said they had found a badly decomposed body inside the hull of the ship which they said could be the remains of Russel Rebello, an Indian waiter who is one of two people still missing.
False hopes have been raised before, however – two weeks ago Italian officials announced with great fanfare that they believed they had found the remains of Mr Rebello, from Mumbai, and the other missing person, Maria Grazia Trecarichi, 50, an Italian passenger.
A day later they retracted that and said the remains they had found were not even human but probably belonged to an animal.
The ship was raised upright last month in an unprecedented feat of maritime engineering.