FRANCESCO Schettino, the captain who crashed the Costa Concordia liner into rocks off the Italian coast with the loss of 32 lives, has complained he has been depicted as "worse than Bin Laden".
Mr Schettino, for whom prosecutors are likely to demand criminal indictments within weeks, made the comments to La Stampa in the run-up to the anniversary of the tragedy on 13 January.
“I’ve been painted as worse than Bin Laden, while my regret for what happened is enormous,” he said. He also complained that his professional achievements and the image of Italy had been “ridiculed” by the coverage of the disaster.
This coming Sunday on the island of Giglio off the Tuscan coast, where the vessel struck rocks before partially capsizing, a special mass will be held at the island’s port to mark the anniversary of the accident. A bronze commemorative plaque will then be placed in the harbour in memory of the 32 victims.
Mr Schettino was in charge of the 290-metre vessel, carrying over 4,000 passengers and crew, when in a deviation from its standard route, it passed close to the shore of Giglio to perform a crowd-pleasing sail-by manoeuvre. A collision with rocks tore a 50-metre hole in the vessel’s side. Senior lifeguard officials have said that the delayed call to evacuate the doomed vessel was to blame for most of the fatalities.
Prosecutors will ask a judge to indict Mr Schettino by the first week in February on charges including abandoning ship before his passengers and of manslaughter. Five other crew members and three senior Costa Cruises officials may also be sent to trial.
It has emerged that the vessel will not now be removed from its resting place outside Giglio port before the autumn. The legion of engineers working to return the vessel to an upright position and attach buoyancy devices had hoped to be able to tow it to the mainland to be dismantled before the start of this year’s summer season.
Meanwhile, the wreck’s appeal to sightseers was underlined after five German tourists had to be rescued after getting up close to the Concordia, only for their tiny boat to be inundated by large waves.
“It was a pretty stupid thing to do. They were lucky that it ended as it did – they could have quite easily sunk,” according to a coastguard spokesman.