Costa Concordia captain blames crew for crash disaster
The captain of the wrecked Costa Concordia has blamed his helmsman for the ship crashing into a reef with the death of 32 people.
Francesco Schettino told his trial in Italy that as the Concordia came perilously close to the rocky coast of Giglio island, he ordered his helmsman to steer to the left, but the crewman reacted slowly and did not carry out the manoeuvre.
"In my experience, there wouldn't have been the crash" had the helmsman promptly and properly had carried out the order, Schettino said. He spoke after asking the court for permission while technical experts were discussing how much the helmsman's action might have contributed to the collision.
"If it weren't for the delay and error ... the ship would have stopped" before slamming into the reef, which left a 230-foot gash in one side of the ship's hull, Schettino said. He told the court he ordered a quick move to the left, to try to abruptly steer the huge ship away from the coast.
Schettino has previously said the reef was not on his charts and that the company should shoulder some blame. If convicted, he could face 20 years in prison.
The helmsman, Jacob Rusli Bin, is one of five Costa employees who were granted plea bargains in return for mild sentences in a separate heraing . He was convicted of manslaughter and causing the shipwreck, and jailed for 20 months. Because of a law shaving three years off sentences to reduce prison overcrowding, he is unlikely to serve any time behind bars.
Investigators have said that language problems between the Italian captain and the Indonesian-born helmsman might have played a role in the botched manoeuvre.
Schettino has asked the judge to allow him to inspect the crippled liner, which just last week was raised upright in a spectacular salvage operation.
The complicated maritime operation righted the Concordia outside Giglio Island harbour, where it had capsized in January last year.
Schettino is charged with manslaughter, with causing the shipwreck and abandoning ship before its 4,200 passengers and crew could all be safely evacuated. He claims he is being made a scapegoat and that errors by other Costa crew and mechanical problems aggravated the consequences of the tragedy.