In a TV interview, his first press interview since his ship, the Costa Concordia, hit a reef and listed over, partially sinking on Jan.13, Captain Francesco Schettino said he was not to blame. However, transcripts released tell a different story.
Thirty-two died in the tragedy which appears to have been caused when Schettino intentionally took the ship too close to the shore of the Italian island of Giglio in the Tuscan Bay. He did so, he himself said on the transcripts, to perform a "salute" to a former colleague, retired captain Mario Palombo. But in his televised interview with Italy's Canale 5 TV on Tuesday, Schettino insisted that he was not in charge of the ship at the time it hit the reef that caused its doom.
But transcripts from the ship's 'black box' reveal Schettino took control of the Costa Concordia at 9:39 that night, a full six minutes before the ship hit the reef. They also reveal that in the midst of the disaster, Schettino was trying to shift blame. After making phone contact with the emergency center at Costa Cruises, the owner/operator of the ship, in a talk with Roberto Ferrarini on the other end, Schettino said "It was Palombo who said to me 'pass close by, pass close by'. I did pass close by and I hit shallow water with the stern. I did it to keep him happy. I'm really devastated." He also said to Ferrarini "Roberto, I fucked up!"
Costa Concordia: Issues apology
While on the one hand Schettino insisted he was not in charge of the ship at the time but another officer was - he does not name that officer - on the other he apologized. “When there’s an accident, it’s not just the ship that’s identified or the company,” he said. “The captain is identified and so it’s normal that I should apologize as a representative of this system."
Schettino faces charges of manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and of abandoning ship before all passengers were evacuated. During the interview he was at times measured in responses, possibly with a view to his impending trial. Italian news agencies noted that at times as he spoke to the interviewer he had a noticeable tick in one eye.
Schettino was on house arrest at his home near Naples, but earlier this month a judge lifted that order, allowing Schettino to go into the nearby town of Meta di Sorrento. The captain, who called the disaster a "banal accident," is reportedly writing a book about the events of that night.
The ship's being refloated by Titan Salvage, an American company, and Micoperi of Italy, who say they plan to have it raised and towed to a port for scrapping sometime around the end of January. The 6-month anniversary of the disaster comes next Monday, July 13 and there will be a memorial on Giglio to honor those who died.