Monday 19 March 2018

Former Costa Concordia captain Francesco Schettino arrives in Italian court to give evidence

THE former captain of the shipwrecked cruise liner Costa Concordia has arrived at a court in Italy to hear the evidence against him.

Passengers who survived the collision off the Tuscan coast on January 13 in which 32 people were killed are also attending.

Francesco Schettino used a back entrance to slip into a theatre in Grosseto which is serving as a courtroom.

More than 1,000 survivors, victims' relatives and their lawyers are attending a closed-door hearing to discuss the evidence against Schettino and eight other defendants.

Wearing dark glasses, Schettino made no comments as he arrived.

Hearings this week will help decide whether a judge will order a trial for Schettino, who is charged with manslaughter, causing the shipwreck and abandoning ship while passengers and crew were still aboard. He denies the charges.

"We want to look him in the eye to see how he will react to the accusations," said German survivor Michael Liessen, 50.

Last month four court-appointed experts delivered a 270-page report of what went wrong based on an analysis of data recorders, ship communications equipment, testimony and other evidence.

The experts - two admirals and two engineers - lay most of the blame for the collision with the reef and the botched evacuation on Schettino. But they also noted that not all crew members understood Italian, not all had current certification for evacuation procedures, and not all passengers had participated in evacuation drills.

Passengers described a confused and delayed evacuation, with many of the lifeboats unable to be lowered because the boat was listing too far to one side. Some of the 4,200 people aboard jumped into the Mediterranean and swam to Giglio, while others had to be plucked from the vessel by rescue helicopters hours after the collision.

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