Captain unaware of severity of Costa Concordia crisis, witness says

Dec. 9, 2013 at 2:52 PM
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GROSSETO, Italy, Dec. 9 (UPI) -- An Italian Coast Guard commander testified Monday he thought the captain of the doomed cruise ship Costa Concordia was unaware of the severity of the crisis.

Cmdr. Gregorio De Falco said, at the criminal trial of Capt. Francesco Schettino in Grosseto, Italy, he tried without success to persuade Schettino to return to his duties and help passengers leave the sinking cruise ship.

Schettino is on trial for multiple counts of manslaughter in the January 2012 shipwreck of the 951-foot, $618 million cruise ship off the coast of Tuscany that killed 32 people. Thousands more of the 4,200 passengers aboard were plunged into the water when the ship ran aground near the coastal town of Giglio and began to sink.

"I urged Captain Schettino to get back on the ship, but did not succeed," De Falco recounted as he recalled their telephone conversation.

As passengers fled the sinking ship, De Falco ordered Schettino to leave his lifeboat and return to the Costa Concordia to help coordinate rescue operations. A recording of the conversation, including De Falco's order, "Get back on board, dammit," was played Monday at the trial, the Italian news agency ANSA reported.

Schettino, 53, has insisted on his innocence, and has sued to get his job back.

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