The captain of a Carnival Corp ship that ran aground off
Italy was granted house arrest hours after audio emerged of a Coast Guard
official ordering Francesco Schettino to return to his damaged ship and oversee
Schettino, who may face criminal charges including
manslaughter, was granted house arrest last night by a judge in Grosseto,
Italy, his lawyer, Bruno Leporatti told reporters in remarks broadcast on Sky
The ruling came late yesterday hours after divers discovered five more
bodies on the stricken ship, bringing the death toll to 11. Twenty-eight people
are missing, according to Italy's Civil Protection agency.
Judge Valeria Montesarchio took three hours of testimony
from Schettino as TV news programs and websites continually broadcast audio of
phone conversations on Jan. 13 between Schettino and a senior Coast Guard
official after the Costa Concordia struck rocks off the island of Giglio and
tilted on its side with 4,200 people on board.
Coast Guard Commander Gregorio Maria De Falco repeatedly
ordered Schettino to get back on the cruise liner, at times swearing at the
captain after Schettino said he wasn’t on board. Schettino initially told the
official that only 40 people remained on the ship at a time when hundreds were
still trying to evacuate. The ship began listing, complicating efforts to lower
lifeboats and forcing passengers to scramble across the exposed hull to reach
rescue boats from Giglio.
“There are people
climbing down a rope ladder on the bow of the ship. Take a lifeboat and climb
up that ladder and climb up on to the ship and tell me how many people are
there,” De Falco, speaking from the city of Livorno on the Italian mainland,
told Schettino, according to audio posted yesterday on the website of newspaper
Corriere della Sera. “Tell me if there are women, children and people in need
When the captain hesitated to reply, De Falco said there
were fatalities and again ordered him to return. “You realize it’s dark and we
can’t see anything?” Schettino said, adding that “other rescue workers” were
now in place.
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“You’ve been telling me that for an hour, now get back on
board!” the Coast Guard official shouted. A Coast Guard spokesman confirmed
that the audio is authentic.
Schettino didn’t return and took a taxi on Giglio before
being arrested, media including Sky TG24 said. Prosecutor Francesco Verusio had
requested that Schettino be held in jail because of the risk he might flee,
rather than be permitted to return to his home in Sorrento, Italy.
The captain is “shattered, dismayed, saddened for the loss
of lives and strongly disturbed,” his lawyer Leporatti said in a statement Jan.
Rescue divers discovered five more bodies yesterday after
setting off small explosives to allow them to reach more remote parts of the
ship. Authorities yesterday for the first time released a list of those still
Carnival chairman and chief executive officer Micky Arison,
said he was “deeply saddened” by the news of the additional deaths.
priority continues to be supporting rescue and recovery efforts and looking
after our guests and crew members, along with securing the vessel to ensure
there is no environmental impact,” he said in an emailed statement last night.
Schettino, who joined the company in 2002, was promoted to
captain in 2006 and never had a prior accident, according to Pier Luigi Foschi,
chairman of Carnival’s Italian unit, Costa Crociere.
The Costa Concordia ran aground about 9:45 p.m. on Jan. 14
within hours after leaving a port near Rome to continue a Mediterranean cruise.
The ship’s route was set electronically before it left, and the cruise liner
shouldn’t have been so close to the Giglio, Foschi said at a press conference
in Genoa Jan. 16.
“The fact that the
ship strayed from that course can only be due to a maneuver that was not
approved, not authorized nor communicated to Costa Crociere by the captain of
the ship,” Foschi said.
Schettino may have steered the boat closer to Giglio to give
passengers a better view of the Tuscan island, Foschi said.
Foschi visited the island yesterday and met with survivors,
crew members and rescue workers. He said he was touched by the stories of
people on the ship, and that the accident didn’t reflect any safety issues with
“Our ships are safe just as they were on Friday,” he said
from Giglio, where the Concordia juts out of the water just off the edge of the
island. “It has nothing to do with security at sea nor does it have anything to
do with our policy, training or the quality of our personnel.”
After the collision, passengers were initially told that the
ship had an electrical problem and there was nothing to be concerned about. The
order to abandon ship wasn’t given for more than two hours after the collision
when the ship was beginning to list, making it impossible to lower many of the
lifeboats, passengers on the cruise liner said.
Video released Jan. 16 of the
rescue operation showed hundreds of passengers clamouring along the side of the
ship to reach ladders that led down to water, where they were loaded on to