Recording of captain refusing to re-board ship and account for lives released12:52 pm - 01/17/2012
ROME (AP) - Five more bodies were pulled Tuesday out of the crippled cruise ship off Tuscany, and a shocking audio emerged in which the ship's captain was heard making excuses as the Italian coast guard repeatedly ordered him to return and oversee the ship's evacuation.
Prosecutors have accused Capt. Francesco Schettino of manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning his ship before all passengers were evacuated during the grounding of the Costa Concordia cruise ship Friday night.
The death toll nearly doubled to 11 on Tuesday when divers located five more bodies, all of them adults wearing life jackets, in the rear of the ship near an emergency evacuation point, according to Italian Coast Guard Cmdr. Cosimo Nicastro. He said they were thought to have been passengers.
Prior to the discovery of the five bodies, the coast guard had raised the number of missing to 25 passengers and four crew. Italian officials gave the breakdown as: 14 Germans, six Italians, four French, two Americans, one Hungarian, one Indian and one Peruvian.
The Costa Concordia was carrying more than 4,200 people when it hit a reef off the Tuscan island of Giglio when Schettino made an unauthorized deviation from the cruise ship's programmed course, apparently as a favor to his chief waiter, who hailed from the island.
Schettino has insisted that he stayed aboard until the ship was evacuated. However, a recording of his conversation with Italian Coast Guard Capt. Gregorio De Falco that emerged Tuesday indicates he fled before all passengers were off - and then resisted De Falco's repeated orders to return.
"You go on board and then you will tell me how many people there are. Is that clear?" De Falco shouted in the audio tape.
Schettino resisted, saying the ship was tipping and that it was dark. At the time, he was in a lifeboat and said he was coordinating the rescue from there.
"You go aboard. It is an order. Don't make any more excuses. You have declared 'Abandon ship,' now I am in charge," De Falco shouted.
Schettino was finally heard agreeing to reboard on the tape. But the coast guard has said he never went back, and had police arrest him on land.
The 52-year-old Schettino, described by the Italian media as a genial, tanned ship's officer, has worked for 11 years for the ship's owner and was made captain in 2006.
Schettino hails from Meta di Sorrento, in the Naples area, which produces many of Italy's ferry and cruise boat captains. He attended the Nino Bixio merchant marine school near Sorrento.
Earlier Tuesday, Italian naval divers exploded holes in the hull of the grounded cruise ship, trying to speed up the search for the missing while seas were still calm. Navy spokesman Alessandro Busonero told Sky TV 24 the holes would help divers enter the wreck more easily.
"We are rushing against time," he said.
The divers set four microcharges above and below the surface of the water, Busonero said. Television footage showed one hole above the waterline less than two meters (6 feet) in diameter.
"The hope is that the ship is empty and that the people are somewhere else, or if they are inside that they found a safe place to await rescue," Coast Guard spokesman Filippo Marini told Sky TV 24.
A Dutch shipwreck salvage firm, meanwhile, said it would take its engineers and divers two to four weeks to extract the 500,000 gallons of fuel aboard the ship. The safe removal of the fuel has become a priority second only to finding the missing, as the wreckage site lies in a maritime sanctuary for dolphins, porpoises and whales.
Smit, a Rotterdam, Netherlands-based salvage company, said no fuel had leaked from any of the ship's tanks and that the tanks appeared intact. While there is a risk the ship could shift in larger waves, to date it has been relatively stable perched on top of rocks near Giglio's port.
Smit's operations manager, Kees van Essen, said the company was confident the fuel could safely be extracted using pumps and valves to vacuum the oil out to waiting tanks.
"But there are always environmental risks in these types of operations," he told reporters.
The company said any discussion about the fate of the ship - whether it is removed in one piece or broken up - would be decided by Italian ship operator Costa Crociere and its insurance companies.
The Miami-based Carnival Corp., which owns the Italian operator, estimated that preliminary losses from having the Concordia out of operation at least through 2012 would be between $85 million and $95 million, along with other costs. The company's share price slumped more than 16 percent Monday.
It was not yet clear if the ship - which was completed in 2006 - would ever be able to return to service.
Carnival said its deductible on damage to the ship was approximately $30 million. In addition, the company faces a deductible of $10 million for third-party personal injury liability claims.
Carnival said other costs related to the grounding can't yet be determined.source
Profile: Capt Francesco Schettino
Capt Francesco Schettino: "We were last to leave the ship''
Francesco Schettino, the Costa Concordia captain at the centre of one of Italy's worst maritime disasters, is currently under arrest.
He faces possible charges of manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning ship, charges he denies.
The 52-year-old's life has been dominated by the sea.
Born in the coastal town of Castellammare di Stabia, near the southern city of Naples, he attended a nautical institute in the nearby town of Piano di Sorrento.
Few personal details are known about Mr Schettino, and his family - based in the Naples town of Meta - have said they are no longer giving interviews to the press.
But speculation is swirling about how the vast ship he captained - almost a floating city with its 4,300 passengers and crew members - ended its journey aground and on its side, metres from the Tuscan island of Giglio.
Capt Schettinoquoted in 2010 interview with Dnes newspaper
It's like plane crashes - everyone thinks it couldn't happen to them”
Mr Schettino joined Costa Cruises in 2002, initially as an official in charge of security. He was promoted to the role of captain in 2006, having been second-in-command.
As reports of a unplanned change of course and a terrifying and chaotic evacuation process have multiplied, the firm has been quick to distance itself from the captain who, it said, had made "serious errors of judgement".
Costa's Chief Executive Officer Pier Luigi Foschi said Mr Schettino changed a pre-programmed route to make a manoeuvre that was "unauthorised, unapproved and unknown to Costa".
"The captain has the authority to take the decisions on board. In this case, the captain decided to change the route and he went into waters that he did not know in advance," Mr Foschi said.
Italian newspapers have speculated that the change of course may have been a daring deviation, a kind of maritime tribute to one of the crew members who was from the small island.
Costa Cruises CEO Pier Luigi Foschi: "He [the captain] decided to change the course of the ship"
The reason for the dramatic shift in route will only be revealed by the criminal investigation but, in a television interview given hours after the ship ran aground, Mr Schettino's shock and disbelief is clear.
"I firmly believe that the rock was not shown," he tells the reporter, seemingly incredulous at what had happened.
"We didn't hit it with the bow of the boat, but from the side, as if this rock had some kind of spike beneath the water. I don't know if it was picked up or not but on the nautical chart it said that we should have had deep water beneath us. [...] We were about 300 metres from the rocks, more or less, we shouldn't have hit anything," he said.
Meanwhile, transcripts of conversations between Capt Schettino and the coastguard have emerged suggesting he fled before all passengers had been evacuated, despite his assertion otherwise.
In the recording, Coastguard Capt Gregorio De Falco repeatedly orders him to get back on board the ship.
"Listen Schettino, perhaps you have saved yourself from the sea, but I will make you look very bad. I will make you pay for this. Dammit, go back on board!" Capt De Falco says.
Speaking by radio from a lifeboat, Capt Schettino says he is co-ordinating the rescue from there, pleading at one point: "Do you realise that it is dark and we can't see anything?"
The coastguard shouts back: "So, what do you want to do, to go home, Schettino?! It's dark and you want to go home? Go to the bow of the ship where the ladder is and tell me what needs to be done, how many people there are, and what they need! Now!"
A taxi driver who says he took the captain to a hotel on Saturday morning - after the ship had crashed - told Ansa news agency the captain had asked only where he could buy some socks.
"He looked like a beaten dog, cold and scared," the taxi driver said.
An earlier interview was full of confidence in his abilities and the technology that underpins modern cruise ship travel. But some of his words may come back to haunt him.
"I wouldn't want to be the captain of the Titanic, forced to navigate between icebergs," he told a reporter from Czech newspaper Dnes in 2010.
"But I think that with the right preparation any situation can be overcome and any problem prevented," he added.
When asked whether the 1997 film Titanic had discouraged people from going on a cruise, his response was: "Luckily, people forget tragedies quickly. It's like plane crashes. Everyone thinks that it couldn't happen to them."
As the accusations against Mr Schettino grow, there have been those who have come to his defence, setting up a Facebook page with 1,500 fans.
Many of them are sailors themselves who have commented on how Mr Schettino's decision to steer the ship towards port after it collided with the rock had probably saved dozens of lives.
According to an interview in Naples-based Il Mattino newspaper quoting his sister, the first person Mr Schettino called after the incident was his 80-year-old mother, Rosa.
"He called her at five in the morning on Saturday to tell her there had been a disaster, that he had tried to save as many passengers as possible and not to worry, because it was all over," she said.source at the bbc; released recorded audio here (unable to embed. boo).
Not sure if the translating reporter curses because that's what the coast guard says, or if it's his own complete disbelief.