Ex-first mate criticizes Capt. Schettino when Costa Concordia crashed

Oct. 7, 2013 at 4:03 PM
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GROSSETO, Italy, Oct. 7 (UPI) -- The ex-first mate of the Costa Concordia testified Monday he and another crewman were playing video games when the cruise ship slammed into rocks off Italy.

The testimony was the first in the trial of Capt. Francesco Schettino, who is charged with several counts of manslaughter in the deaths of 32 people who died in the Jan. 13, 2012, incident off Giglio Island. Prosecutors say they will call more than 1,000 witnesses.

Giovanni Iaccarino told the court he and cartographer Simone Canessa were in their cabin "playing on their Playstations" when the giant liner smashed into a rock formation, ANSA reported.

Prosecutors in the theater serving as courtroom in the Tuscan city of Grosseto used live and videotaped testimony to reconstruct the disaster. The videotape was filmed on the Costa Concordia's sister ship, the Costa Serena, and was criticized by the court-appointed lawyer for the Concordia.

Iaccarino recalled at the moment of impact, he and Canessa were resting in their cabin.

"We were playing on Playstation when we became aware of the ship hitting on the left, then on the right. Materials fell down. The sensation was like hitting aground or a collision. This was the impression I had at that moment," Iaccarino recalled.

Iaccarino was the first person to investigate and found out that the engine room and bilge pumps were flooded 11 minutes after impact, and communicated the irreparable damage to the control room, ANSA said.

Iaccarino also testified Schettino ordered the ship to sail a half-mile from the shore of Giglio Island instead of the route's 5-mile distance. He said Schettino had wanted to move closer seven days earlier but bad weather prevented it.

Iaccarino testified on tape he heard an announcement that things were under control.

He said he returned to the control room after the impact and saw that instruments indicated that the ship "had gone from 16 knots to 9."

"I looked at the nautical map and I saw that we were on a seabed near the rocks of Giglio. I looked at the panel and it was full of red lights. Then Commander Schettino put his hands in his hair and said, 'I messed up,'" Iaccarino said.

Schettino's lawyers disputed the charge their client should have evacuated the liner more quickly, saying the Concordia itself "was the best life-boat available." He said the captain's decision to keep the people on board rather than move them into lifeboats was "well-pondered."

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