GIGLIO, Italy, Jan. 26 (UPI) -- The Italian cruise line Costa Crociere knew the Costa Concordia had hit a rock shortly after the accident along the Tuscan coast, the company's chief testified.
Pier Luigi Foschi, chief executive officer of Costa Crociere, a unit of Carnival Corp., testified Wednesday before the Italian Senate, offering the company's first public acknowledgment that ship Capt. Francesco Schettino contacted the company early in the crisis that has left at least 16 people dead. The ship was carrying at least 4,200 passengers and crew when it went aground Jan. 13 near Giglio, an island off Tuscany. At least 16 people are still missing.
The Wall Street Journal said Foschi's testimony appears to refute claims that Schettino, who is under house arrest on accusations of manslaughter and abandoning ship, did not contact officials immediately and raises more questions about why the ship's evacuation alarm was not sounded until 10:58 p.m., more than an hour after the ship hit a rocky ledge and started taking on water.
Foschi's testimony was based on a memorandum by Roberto Ferrarini, Costa Crociere's head of marine operations. Ferrarini said he received at least six calls from Schettino before the evacuation alarm was sounded. During the first call, which came in at 9:57 p.m., the captain told Ferrarini he had hit a rock. In three subsequent calls before 10:06 p.m., Schettino described how water was spreading through the hull and making it hard for the ship to stay upright.
Foschi, in testimony that appears to refute his Jan. 16 statement that Schettino didn't warn the cruise line of an emergency until 10:06, said Ferrarini didn't understand the seriousness of the situation, the Wall Street Journal said.
At 10:16 p.m., Schettino told Ferrarini the situation was under control. The captain called at 10:33 p.m. to say the ship was listing and that he was in contact with officials. He called again, two minutes later, to say he was abandoning ship, Foschi testified.
Schettino told a judge that week that he didn't alert passengers immediately because he didn't want to cause panic and instead focused on getting the ship closer to shore to facilitate an evacuation.
Foschi testified Wednesday the ship's hull is divided into several watertight compartments to allow as many as two sections of the hull to flood without sinking the entire ship