The captain of the Costa Concordia admitted in court he attempted a tricky manoeuvre to show off when the vessel sank with the loss of 32 lives. Francesco Schettino, 52, said he was trying to “kill three birds with one stone” when he steered the cruise ship close to Giglio, an island off west Italy, two years ago.
He said he performed the salute to impress the ship’s head waiter, who was from Giglio, to please a friend staying on the island and to treat the passengers.
But the ship hit rocks with 4,200 people on board. Schettino’s lawyers claim the disaster was not caused by the collision but a failure of a back-up generator and watertight compartments.
Schettino arrived 45 minutes late for the hearing and was described as “tense, concentrated” by his lawyer. Still wearing dark sunglasses, he told the court that it was common for ship’s captains to sail close to the islands to provide a stunning view for passengers.
Schettino said there was no obligation on him to tell the ship’s owners that he was embarking on a change of route when he performed the manoeuvre.
He said: “I didn’t advise anybody.”
He faces up to 20 years in jail if he is found guilty. Prosecutors claim he abandoned ship but he says he was thrown overboard and was later rescued. He denies manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning ship. The trial continues in Grosseto.
The wreck of the Concordia remained off the coast of Giglio for two and a half years until it was finally refloated during a major rescue operation.