Concordia captain: It was the helmsman's fault
By Frances D'emilio, APGROSSETO, Italy--At his trial on Monday, the captain of the shipwrecked Costa Concordia blamed his helmsman for botching a last-minute corrective maneuver that he contended would have avoided the cruise ship's deadly collision with a reef.
September 24, 2013, 12:17 am TWN
Capt. Francesco Schettino, the sole defendant on trial, also pressed his request for an inspection of the crippled luxury liner, which just last week was raised upright in a spectacular salvage operation off the Tuscan island of Giglio.
The complicated maritime operation righted the Concordia outside Giglio harbor, where it had capsized the night of Jan. 13, 2012, killing 32 people. Salvage engineers say the now-upright ship would be more accessible for court-appointed experts to inspect.
Schettino is charged with manslaughter, with causing the shipwreck and with abandoning ship before its 4,200 passengers and crew could all be safely evacuated. He contends he is being made a scapegoat and that errors by other Costa Crociere SpA crew and mechanical problems aggravated the consequences of the tragedy.
The Concordia crashed into a reef, took on water and capsized when Schettino steered it too close to Giglio during what was supposed to be a weeklong pleasure cruise in the Mediterranean.
Schettino told the court that as the Concordia came perilously close to Giglio's rocky coastline, he ordered his helmsman to steer the tiller to the left, but the crewman reacted too slowly, and shifted to the right instead.
“In my experience, there wouldn't have been the crash” had the helmsman promptly had carried out the proper maneuver, Schettino said.
“If it weren't for the helmsman's error, to not position the tiller to the left ... the swerve (toward the reef) and the collision wouldn't have happened,” Schettino contended.
The captain has claimed that by making a fast maneuver, he would have pulled the Concordia away from its collision course. The jagged reef sliced a 70-meter (230-foot) gash in the ship's hull.
Investigators have said previously that language problems between the Italian captain and the Indonesian-born helmsman might have played a role in the botched maneuver.