The captain of the Costa Concordia, the ill-fated Italian cruise ship that capsized Jan. 13 off the Italian island of Giglio, spoke with U.S. media for the first time this week and his at-times rambling talk produced little clarity.
Captain Francesco Schettino talked with NBC’s Michelle Kosinski on The Today show and gave a similar interview as he gave to Italy's Canale 5 TV last week. He takes some blame, but not all, and he doesn't give much in the way of detail as to why it took so long to declare an emergency on the ship. He again credited himself with saving lives.
"At the end of the story it is very easy to find a scapegoat or the person that we want to blame for the accident,’’ Schettino told Kosinski. “'The captain went insane and let’s finish the story'. I take my responsibility, of course, as a gentleman, as a man, as a captain, I take my responsibility. I am not blaming anybody. I am clear with my conscience."
Schettino: Salute to Captain Palombo
Thirty-two people died when Schettino took the ship too close to the island in order to do a salute to a retired captain who was on Giglio, Captain Mario Palombo. Transcripts from the bridge that night have him telling the emergency center official at Costa Cruises, the owner and operator of the ship, about how he'd intended to salute Palombo when he hit a reef, which imbedded in the hull of the Costa Concordia.
"It was Palombo who said to me 'pass close by, pass close by'," he told Roberto Ferrarini in the Costa Cruises emergency center after the ship had hit. "I did pass close by and I hit shallow water with the stern. I did it to keep him happy. I'm really devastated." Schettino also said to Ferrarini: "Roberto, I fucked up!"
Costa Concordia "went wrong"
At one point during his talk with NBC he tried to blame the ship itself for the mishap, suggesting there must have been a mechanical failure of some kind. “Something inside that compass went wrong,’’ he said. “The rock was marked on the charts but the depth of the water on the charts was more than in the reality it is.’’
When it came time to talk about the evacuation delay, Schettino said that it took them some time to realize the extent of the damage. He also said that he did not abandon the ship,. as he has been accused of, and charged with, but that the tilting of the vessel caused him to fall into a lifeboat just before it left to go to shore. He claims he tried to get them to take him back.
Schettino awaits his trail for manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning ship before all passengers were evacuated. He was under house arrest in his home near Naples but has now been given permission to go to the nearby town of Meta di Sorrento.