Strike expected to delay Schettino trial

2013-07-09 09:16
The former captain of the Costa Concordia luxury cruise ship Francesco Schettino. (File, AP)

The former captain of the Costa Concordia luxury cruise ship Francesco Schettino. (File, AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Grosseto — The luxury Costa Concordia cruise liner lies on its side and half-submerged off the tiny Tuscan island of Giglio, blighting the seascape for another summer in an otherwise pristine part of the Mediterranean.

About 18 months after the hulking ship ran aground, it is a daily reminder of the slow progress Italian authorities have made handling the aftermath. The remains of two of the 32 dead have yet to be found. The timetable to salvage it has stretched on. Only now is anyone facing trial for the catastrophe — and even that process is expected to be immediately delayed.

Though court-appointed experts concluded that the crew and owner Costa Crociere SpA, a unit of Miami-based Carnival Corporation, committed blunders and safety breaches that contributed to the disaster off the island's rocky coast, only the ship's captain Francesco Schettino has been ordered to stand trial.

The trial was scheduled to begin on Tuesday in Grosseto, in a theatre rather than the Tuscan town's small courthouse to make room for all the survivors, relatives and lawyers. But an eight-day nationwide Italian lawyers' strike was expected to prompt the judge to immediately postpone the hearing by about a week.

The captain could face up to 20 years in prison if he is convicted of manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning the Concordia before all of the 4 200 passengers and crew were safely evacuated. Prosecutors contend that on the night of 13 January 2012, Schettino steered the ship too close to the island's coastline in a publicity stunt for Costa Crociere and accidentally rammed the jagged reef. The cruise company denies that scenario.

Survivors described a chaotic and delayed evacuation, with crew allegedly downplaying the seriousness of the collision, which caused a gash 70m long in the Concordia's side and let seawater rush into the ship.

'I'm no coward'

Schettino has protested his innocence. He insists that his skillful steering of the liner to just outside the port saved thousands of lives. He also contends the ship's navigational charts didn't indicate the reef was in its path as it cruised near the island on part of a weeklong Mediterranean tour.

A recording of a phone conversation between Schettino and an exasperated Italian coast guard official who repeatedly ordered the captain in vain to scramble back aboard the ship to direct the evacuation was played again and again in broadcasts around the world.

In interviews, Schettino insisted he is no coward. He claimed he had to leave the capsizing boat before it was impossible to launch any more lifeboats and that in the darkness he didn't see a ladder he could have used to climb back aboard.

The captain has depicted himself as a scapegoat. Five other defendants — two ship officials, a helmsman, the hotel director aboard and the director of the cruise company's crisis unit — successfully sought pleas bargains. On Monday, the lawyers' strike prompted the postponement of a hearing to announce their sentences, likely to be a fraction of what Schettino could get.

In Italy, defendants do not have to attend their trials. But Schettino's lawyers have said he wants to show up for its formal start.

On Giglio, where residents depend on tourism and fishing for their livelihoods, the wreckage still mars the panorama from the island's port. Salvage experts had originally predicted the ship could be tipped upright in an ambitious operation so towing could begin in spring of this year. But that timetable has slipped away.

Islanders impatient

The removal project involves about 400 workers representing 18 nationalities, including engineers and divers. On Monday, crews were busy securing some of the caissons being attached to one side of the crippled ship, which, the planners hope, will help the wreckage stay afloat when eventually righted so it can be towed to the mainland.

Islanders are impatient for the removal of the eyesore.

"We want our island back as it was," Giglio's mayor, Sergio Ortelli, told The Associated Press as he looked at the blue cove where he used to swim. Now, towering cranes and platforms of the removal team loom over the shipwreck.

Ortelli said authorities told the islanders the operation will begin in September to bring the wrecked ship upright again.

The island is still awaiting compensation for damages caused by the shipwreck, he said. "Our image was internationally damaged, and tourism figures have dropped off noticeably," the mayor said.

Meanwhile, the remains of an Italian woman who was a passenger and of an Indian man who worked as a waiter have still not been recovered.

"The saddest thing is to pass by on the ferry and think that two bodies are still there, or will never be found," said tourist Patrizia Giovanelli, who was making her second visit to the island.

Read more on:    francesco schettino  |  italy  |  maritime  |  cruise liner disaster

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.