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article imageCosta Concordia Captain Francesco Schettino facing criminal trial

By Marcus Hondro     May 25, 2013 in World
It took a long while to determine but at last there has been a decision on whether to send Costa Concordia Captain Francesco Schettino to trial. A judge in Grosetto, Italy ruled this week that prosecutors can go ahead with the charges.
Schettino was the captain of the ship on the Jan. 13, 2012 when it hit a reef and ran aground some 300 metres from the Italian island of Giglio in the Tuscan Bay. There were more than 4,200 passengers and crew onboard the 114,500 tonnes ship, of which 32 died when the ship listed over. Sixty-five percent of the cruise liner is underwater still.
Two bodies have never been recovered.
Judge Pietro Molino gave the green light for the trial to proceed. Schettino is charged with manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning his ship. Five others, four onboard officers and a Costa Cruises employee working their emergency center that night, were allowed plea bargains and their cases are being handled separately.
Schettino plea bargain denied
Schettino's lawyers tried unsuccessfully to get him a plea bargain. The 52-year-old, if found guilty, could receive up to 20 years in jail. He is alleged to have intentionally taken the ship off course and close into to shore in order to 'salute' a former colleague living on Giglio.
When the Costa Concordia hit a reef that tore a massive hole in its hull, Schettino refused to allow the abandon ship signal for well over an hour and passengers, and officials onshore, were told it was simply an electrical problem. That delay cost lives.
Schettino, known in Italy as 'The Chicken of the Sea' is heard in audio tapes from the bridge saying they will 'salute' his colleague, and is heard ordering officers not to sound the abandon ship, despite repeatedly being asked.
The Costa Concordia remains offshore. The American company, Titan Salvage, and an Italian company, Micoperi, are working on refloating it and towing it to the nearby port of Piombino for scrapping. They expect to have it refloated and towed by December.
There is no timeline yet on when the trial will begin. Schettino maintains his innocence and says that his actions that night saved lives. When he heard the news that his trial would be going ahead, Schettino told media that he was not afraid of prison because he has a clear conscience.
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