Entries in Francesco Schettino (9)


Wife of Italian Cruise Captain Calls Treatment of Husband 'Shameful'

ENZO RUSSO/AFP/Getty Images(GIGLIO, Italy) -- The wife of the captain accused of abandoning the capsized Costa Concordia cruise liner off the Tuscan island of Giglio says that her husband is not the "monster" that has been portrayed in the media and that he is being made a scapegoat.

Fabiola Russo, the wife of Capt. Francesco Schettino, spoke out in a cover story in Oggi, an Italian weekly magazine, which hit newsstands on Wednesday.  In the interview, Russo says that her husband is a "maestro," and that there was a reason he was entrusted with the helm of the Concordia.

"My husband is at the center of an unprecedented global media storm," Russo said.  "I cannot think of any other naval or air tragedy in which the responsible party was treated with such violence.  This is a man hunt, people are looking for a scapegoat, a monster.  It's shameful."

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In the interview, Russo, 48, also addresses claims that 52-year-old Schettino, whom the Italian press has dubbed "Captain Coward," recklessly steered the Concordia to disaster.

"He knows how to do his job, but sometimes even those who know how to do their job can make mistakes -- if he did make a mistake," she said.  "He is decisive, stable and lucid.  He analyzes situations, understands them and knows how to manage them."

Russo did however admit in the interview that at one point Schettino was fined for steering a boat too close to the shore.

"Our shared passion is canoeing -- to paddle together you have to be in symphony, which is what Francesco and I are," she said. "But we got fined once, because we took a little motorboat too close to the coast."

The Costa Concordia capsized on Jan. 13 when it hit rocks near Italy's Tuscan coast.  The cruise liner had 4,200 passengers onboard.

Officials said Tuesday that another body was found in the ship's wreckage, which brings the total death toll from the Costa Concordia tragedy to 16, leaving 17 victims still missing, including a Minnesota couple.

Schettino, who claimed he tripped into the lifeboat and never meant to abandon the sinking ship, could face criminal charges, including manslaughter and abandoning ship.  He told investigators earlier that his actions after the crash were competent and saved lives.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Italian Cruise Ship Captain Claims He Was Told to Sail Close to Island

ENZO RUSSO/AFP/Getty Images(GIGLIO, Italy) -- An Italian newspaper is reporting that the captain of the ill-fated Costa Concordia, which ran aground off northern Italy on Jan. 13, is claiming that he was under orders to steer the luxury cruise liner near the island of Giglio.

Transcripts leaked to La Repubblica indicate that Francesco Schettino told an investigating judge that he only "saluted" the island because he was told to do so by ship owner Costa Crociere.  As a result, the ship hit rocks, tearing a huge hole in its hull, which caused the Costa Concordia to list and topple over as thousands tried to frantically abandon ship.

Accused of manslaughter and causing a shipwreck, Schettino apparently told the judge that the owners were firm about carrying out the saluting maneuvers because it was a good way to promote the business.

So far, eight of 13 people known to have died in the accident have been identified with 19 people still unaccounted for, including an elderly couple from Minnesota.  Divers don't plan on ending the search for bodies until they check the entire ship.

Meanwhile, plans are imminent for removing fuel from the crippled vessel to avoid an environmental disaster.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Cruise Ship Wreck: New Audio Recordings Surface

ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP/Getty Images(PORTO SANTO STEFANO, Italy) -- New audio recordings recovered from an Italian cruise liner could shed more light into happened after it hit the rocks near the Tuscan coast and when the captain left as divers continue to search the wreck cruise ship.

In recordings posted by Italian television, Capt. Francesco Schettino tells officials on the mainland, there were "more or less" 200-300 people still on board.

The coast guard asks, "captain, is everyone going to abandon the ship or is someone going to stay?"

Schettino replies: "I'm going to stay here."

Schettino, who is under house arrest, could face criminal charges, including manslaughter and abandoning ship.

Schettino claimed earlier he tripped into the lifeboat and never meant to abandon the sinking ship. He told investigators earlier that his actions after the crash were competent and saved lives.

The CEO of the cruise line said that because Schettino did not tell them exactly what was going on in those minutes after the crash, they did not send the proper response.

On Saturday, divers found the body of a woman still wearing a life jacket in a submerged area of the ship, bringing the total death toll from the Costa Concordia tragedy to 12.

There are still 20 people reported missing, including Minnesota couple Barbara and Jerry Heil.

On Saturday afternoon, the couple's children met Italian officials and left flowers in the water for their parents - daisies for their mother, white roses for the father

The Heils are the only Americans who are still unaccounted for among the 4,200 passengers that were onboard the liner.

A couple from Little Rock, Ark. said they're happy to be home again after their experience aboard the Costa Concordia.

Mark Plath said he, his wife and two other family members jumped off the sinking ship and swam to safety.

"I came up out of the water and looked back and said swim as fast as you can because the boat was turning on top of us it would have crushed us all," Plath said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Cruise Ship Investigators Want to Question Mystery Woman

Laura Lezza/Getty Images(GIGLIO, Italy) -- Italian prosecutors want to question a young Moldovan woman who was with the captain of the doomed luxury liner Costa Concordia during crucial moments of the disaster that killed at least 11 and left 21 missing.

Investigators were told that Domnica Cemortan, 25, was Capt. Francesco Schettino's "shadow" and was with him before, during and after those pivotal moments that prosecutors are trying to piece together when Schettino steered the massive ship onto rocks and then abandoned his ship, according to Italy's TG 5 TV.

Cemortan, who has worked as a cruise ship employee, was on board the ship as a passenger at the time of the accident as a birthday present, she claims. The woman was not assigned a cabin, according to Italy's TG 5 TV and it was unclear if she was a guest of one of the officers.

Schettino, who is now under house arrest, reportedly told a judge that Cemortan was with him and other officers on the bridge at the time of the accident enjoying the view, according to Italian newspaper La Reppublica.

But Cemortan, who has given several interviews to Moldovan media, contradicted the captain's reported statement. She said she was at dinner with friends on Jan. 14 when the crash occurred and was summoned to the bridge to translate for Russian passengers who were being evacuated.

Cemortan has hailed Schettino as a hero, telling Moldovan TV, "the captain saved 3,000 to 4,000 people." She also defended the ship’s crew.

A preliminary report on the crash by the court in Grosseto, Italy, said that a second officer also faces the possibility of criminal charges.

It cites Ciro Ambrosio, the officer of the watch, as being responsible along with Schettino for steering the ship on the rocks. The reports cites their, "imprudence, negligence and incompetence."

Schettino was suspended by Costa on Thursday, according to the company's Milan-based lawyer Marco De Luca.

Search and rescue divers said they believe they have 12 to 24 hours to complete the search before rough waters hit the coast of Giglio, potentially causing the ship to shift position or completely sink.

Eleven people have been confirmed dead and 21 more are missing, including Jerry and Barbara Heil, a couple from Minnesota.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Cruise Captain Says He 'Tripped' into Lifeboat, Couldn't Get Out

ENZO RUSSO/AFP/Getty Images(ROME) -- The captain of the Italian cruise ship gave a slapstick explanation of how he ended up safely in a lifeboat instead of going down with his ship, saying he tripped and fell into the boat as it was being lowered into the sea, Italian media reported Wednesday.

"I had no intention of escaping," Francesco Schettino, 52, said during his first court hearing Tuesday, according to Italy's Corriere della Sera newspaper.

"I was helping some passengers put the life boat to sea. At a certain point the mechanism for lowering it, blocked. We had to force it. Suddenly the system unblocked itself and I tripped and I found myself inside the life boat with a number of passengers."

Once in the lifeboat that was lowered into the sea, Schettino insisted to the court that it was "impossible to go back onboard."

The captain also reportedly admitted to the court that he lied at one point when he assured officials that he had dropped anchor shortly after the Costa Concordia slammed into a rock to stabilize the luxury liner.

However a video by the Guardia di Finanza who arrived onsite 10 minutes after the disaster clearly shows that the anchor had not been lowered. Schettino admitted Tuesday that he lied about the anchor, the newspaper reported.

The luxury cruise ship was carrying more than 4,000 passengers and crew when it struck rocks Friday evening near Giglio off the coast of Tuscany, during a close pass to shore. At least 11 people were killed in the aftermath when the ship keeled over. Nearly two dozen people are still missing, including an American couple from Minnesota.

Schettino reportedly admitted that he made mistakes that led to the crash and afterwards, but said the ship's course, including the now-controversial close pass, had been set from the beginning. The cruise line previously said Schettino had made an unauthorized deviation from the programmed route.

Schettino, who is currently under house arrest, is under investigation for potentially causing the wreck by steering into the rocks and then abandoning the panicked passengers for a lifeboat as the ship plunged over on its side. In recorded radio transmissions released Tuesday, Schettino is heard telling Italian Port Authority officials he and other officers abandoned ship.

"And with 100 people still on board, you abandon ship? [expletive]," the Port Authority officer says in response.

Schettino appears to correct himself, saying, "I didn't abandon any ship...because the ship turned on its side quickly and we were catapulted into the water."

The recording goes on to show the Port Authority official repeatedly berating Schettino for not going back to the ship to coordinate rescue efforts, and at one point ordering Schettino to, "get back on board for [expletive]'s sake!"

Italians appear divided on how to view the embattled cruise captain.

Some, like Schettino's neighbor, said he "is a hero who saved over 4,000 people," Italy's ANSA news outlet reported. Schettino's wife said Tuesday her husband made some quick decisions after the initial impact that helped save passenger's lives.

"It is for this reason that we feel the need to strongly reject any attempt to delegitimize him and ask you to understand his tragedy and personal drama," Fabiola Russo told reporters Tuesday.

In editorials in Italian newspapers, however, Schettino was heavily criticized, one calling him the "coward captain" and another saying the incident shows the Italian national character with its greatness and "all its shortcomings."

Online Facebook groups have reportedly emerged on either side of the argument.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Full Transcript: Convo Between Cruise Ship Capt., Port Authority Released

Laura Lezza/Getty Images(GIGLIO, Italy) -- Audio recording of the conversation between Capt. Francesco Schettino and Port Authority officials after the doomed Italian luxury cruise liner Costa Condcordia struck rocks Friday was released Tuesday morning.  At least 11 people were killed in the aftermath, according to Italian media, and dozens more are still missing.

The following is a translation of the recording, which was posted on the news website Corriere della Sera:

Captain Schettino: It's Capt. Schettino.

Port Authority: Schettino, listen to me, there are people trapped onboard, now you go back, you will go with your rescue boat under the stern of the ship, there are some steps, you climb those steps and you get onboard and you get back to me letting me know how many people are on board. Is that clear to you? I am actually recording this conversation captain.

[inaudible, captain mumbles]

PA: Speak in a loud voice.

Captain: So, the ship right now [inaudible]...

PA: Speak in a loud voice! Put your hand by the microphone to cover it and speak up! Is that clear?

Voices in the background: "Tell him to come here. Tell him to come here."

Captain: So, right now the ship is tilted…

PA: I understand that. Listen to me, there are people that are getting off using the rope ladder on the stern side, you go back there and you go up that ladder the opposite way, you go onboard the ship and you tell me how many people [are there] And what they need. You tell me if there are children, women or people that need assistance and you give me a number for each one of these categories is that clear? Look Schettino, you may have saved yourself from the sea but will put you through a lot of trouble it will be very bad for you! Get back on board for [expletive]'s sake!!!

Captain: Officer, please.

PA: There are no "pleases"! Get back on board! Please assure me that you are going back on board.

Captain: I am here on the rescue boat. I'm right here, I didn't go anywhere else, I'm here.

PA: What are you doing captain?

Captain: I'm here to coordinate rescue operations.

PA: What are you coordinating? Get back on board and coordinate rescue operations from onboard the ship.

[silence, sound cuts out]

PA: Do you refuse to do that?

Captain: No, I'm not refusing to do that.

PA: Are you refusing to back on board?

Captain: No, I am not refusing to go back. I am not going because the other rescue boat stopped.

PA: Get back on board! This is an order! You don't need to make any other assessment. You have declared that you have abandoned ship, therefore I'm in command. Get back on board right now is that clear?

Captain: Officer…

PA: Can you not hear me?

Captain: I'm getting back on board.

PA: Then go! And call me right away when you are on board. There's my rescuer there.

Captain: Where is your rescuer?

PA: My rescuer is on the stern side, go! There are already bodies, Schettino! Go!

Captain: Officer how many bodies are there?

PA: I don't know. I know about one…I've heard about one, but you must tell me! [expletive]!

Captain: Do you realize it's dark out here and we can't see anything?

PA: What do you want to do? Do you want to go home? It's dark, so you want to go home? Get on the stern of that ship climb the ladder and tell me what can be done, how many people are there and what they need. Right now!

Captain: I'm here with my second officer.

[Schettino identifies second officer.]

PA: You and your second officer must get back on board right now is that clear?

Captain: I just wanted to tell you that the other rescue boat here with other rescuers stopped. It's just stopped. Now I've called the other rescuers.

PA: You've been telling me the same thing for an hour now get back on board! On board! And you get back to me right away telling me how many people are there.

Captain: It's fine officer, I'm going.

PA: Then go, right now!

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Captain in Court on Allegations of Abandoning Italian Cruise Ship

ENZO RUSSO/AFP/Getty Images(GIGLIO, Italy) -- Italian prosecutors Tuesday morning are pushing hard to put the captain of the sinking Italian cruise ship, the Costa Concordia, on trial and behind bars, building a case that his behavior was reckless, cowardly, and deadly.

Capt. Francesco Schettino, 52, was brought to court Tuesday morning after being in custody since Saturday on allegations of manslaughter and abandoning the ship.

The luxury cruise ship was carrying more than 4,000 passengers and crew when it struck rocks Friday evening near Giglio, off the coast of Tuscany.  Rescue efforts have been ongoing, but as of Tuesday morning, at least two dozen people remained unaccounted for, and at least 11 people were killed in the wreck's aftermath, according to Italian media.

Italian prosecutors said there's growing evidence Schettino was responsible for the accident, and then failed to protect his passengers.  According to a published account by a cook onboard, a full half hour after the incident, Schettino was still asking for his dinner and drinks and reportedly demanded to know where his female companion's dessert was.

Schettino has claimed the ship hit uncharted rocks and that he acted honorably, telling reporters he and his crew were the last to leave.  But that's not true, according to an Italian newspaper account of a port authority radio transmission to the captain.


"Captain, this is an order, now I am in charge.  Get back on that ship and coordinate the operations.  There are already casualties," the port authority official reportedly told Schettino.

"How many?" the captain responded.

"You should tell me that!  What do you want to do, go home?  Now you get back on that ship and tell us what can be done, how many people are still there and what do they need," the port authority official said.

"OK, OK, I am going," Schettino said.

As a captain for the Costa line since 2006, the year the Concordia was launched, the dark-haired, debonair Schettino was described as a favorite with passengers, especially women.  But if it is true that he and other officers fled the ship, leaving passengers behind, it would be a clear violation of what is regarded as the first law of the sea.

"The captain is the last person to leave the sinking ship," veteran cruise ship commander Capt. William Wright told ABC News.  "I find it very hard to understand how any captain under such dire circumstances would elect to leave his vessel."

The Costa line said the captain was wrong to steer so close to the island, although this video from Italian TV is said to show the Concordia, horns blaring one night last August, sailing within a few hundred feet of the island -- a course the Costa line says was authorized and approved in advance.

Prosecutors, however, said Schettino went beyond authorized procedure and was a reckless show-boater.

"You want to screen out the risk takers," marine legal expert John Hickey said.  "You want to screen out the hot doggers.  You want to screen out people who are not willing to take responsibility." 

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Italian Cruise Ship Sinking: Sixth Body Found

ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP/Getty Images(PORTO SANTO STEFANO, Italy) -- A sixth body has been found in the wreckage of the Costa Concordia cruise ship that capsized off the coast of Tuscany as rescue workers continue searching for survivors in the part of the ship that is above water.

The sixth body to be found on the cruise ship Costa off Giglio is still unidentified, though it has been confirmed by Italian news outlet Ansa that the man was a passenger on the ship. The man was found on the second deck in a part of the ship which was not flooded by water. He had his life vest on.

Sixteen people are still unaccounted for after the Costa Concordia, which was carrying 4,234 passengers and crew, hit rocks Friday evening near Giglio, a small island off the coast of Tuscany. Investigators say the ship was an "incredibly close" 150 meters (roughly 500 feet) from the shore.

The bodies of two passengers found wearing life jackets aboard the ship were identified Sunday, officials said. Both passengers were elderly men -- one Italian, the other Spanish. The bodies were found earlier Sunday near a gathering point in the submerged part of the luxury liner.

"While the investigation is ongoing, preliminary indications are that there may have been significant human error on the part of the ship's master, Captain Francesco Schettino, which resulted in these grave consequences," Costa Cruises said in a statement. "The route of the vessel appears to have been too close to the shore, and in handling the emergency the captain appears not to have followed standard Costa procedures."

Experts are still analyzing the ship's black box, which has already revealed a one-hour lag between the time of the impact on the rocks at 9:45 p.m. local time Friday and the ship's alarm call to the coast guard at about 10:43 p.m. Investigators suspect Schettino tried to maneuver the ship before alerting coast guard, the Italian news outlet Ansa reported.

Schettino is in custody, facing possible charges of manslaughter and abandoning his ship. Schettino reportedly left the stricken vessel at approximately 12:30 a.m., while many passengers didn't get safely off the ship until 6 a.m., Ansa reported.

Ten passengers and six crew members are still unaccounted for. The number was reduced from an earlier estimate of 40 unaccounted for.

The U.S. embassy in Rome estimates 120 Americans were on board the ship, of which 118 have been accounted for.

"Our immediate priority is to account for all passengers and crew, and to secure the vessel to ensure that there are no environmental impacts," Costa Cruises said in a statement. "We have engaged the services of a top specialized salvage company to develop an action plan and help establish a protection perimeter around the ship."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Alleged Actions by Captain ‘Unforgivable,’ Maritime Lawyer Says

ENZO RUSSO/AFP/Getty Images(PORTO SANTO STEFANO, Italy) -- A maritime law expert called the reported actions of the capsized cruise ship the Costa Concordia ”unforgivable.”

Capt. Francesco Schettino is being detained and questioned about his actions that led to the deaths of at least six people. Among the issues are accusations that the captain abandoned his ship while hundreds of terrified passengers were still aboard struggling to find a way off the darkened ship.

Schettino, who is being held in jail in the town of Grosseto, is scheduled to appear in court Tuesday.

The captain’s lawyer Bruno Leporatti said Monday that Schettino is “distressed, shocked, in pain for the loss of human life, but comforted by the knowledge that he kept lucid enough to carry out a difficult emergency maneuver which, taking the ship into shallow waters, in fact saved the life of many people, guests and crew.”

Others were outraged by reports that Schettino had taken the ship on an authorized route, waited nearly an hour to send out an SOS, and left the stricken ship around 12:30 a.m. Saturday, although many passengers didn’t get rescued till 6 a.m.

“The captain is the master of the vessel,” John H. “Jack” Hickey, a maritime trial lawyer in Miami, told ABC News. “Every crew members looks to the captain for guidance and leadership. He has to take care of life and property in that order. If I were the captain, I’d be out there in boats.”

Hickey said he didn’t know whether a captain abandoning a ship was illegal by any state or federal statute, but he did say that it was protocol and an industry standard that the captain remain.

“It’s what they teach them in maritime school. It’s in the merchant mariners handbook,” said Hickey, who now represents passengers and crew members against cruise lines. Previously he worked as an attorney for the cruise lines.

“It’s the captain’s responsibility to know the waters and avoid coming close to any shoals and reefs. He should know this route,” Hickey said. “The key is to avoid mistakes and when mistakes are made, to react to it appropriately. ”

The ship’s black box reportedly revealed a one-hour lag between the time of impact at 9:45 p.m. local time Friday and the ship’s alarm call to the coast guard at 10:43 p.m. Investigators said they believed the captain was trying to move the ship before alerting authorities, the Italian news agency Ansa reported.

There were also reports that some passengers did not know where to meet in case of an emergency and that a drill had been scheduled for the following day.

“There are standards,” Hickey told ABC News Monday. “If the ship is aground hard and you can’t move it … you should be calling ‘May Day’ right then and there. It’s kind of outrageous what happened. It seems unforgivable. Muster drills should be done every time they leave port [with new passengers]. You never put it off.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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