The captain of Costa Concordia has been accused of deliberately steering the ship “too close” to a rocky shore in order to send a greeting signal to someone on the Italian island of Giglio.
Italian prosecutors claim Captain Francesco Schettino had approached the island's coastline in a “carelessly clumsy manner” in the moments before colliding with an underwater rock formation that caused the ship to list violently and eventually topple on its side.
Prosecutors believe the captain had been intending to perform the nautical equivalent of a fly-by past the island's main port when the accident happened, the Daily Telegraph reports today.
It had apparently become a long-standing practice for the Costa Concordia to sail close to the island in order to greet its inhabitants with a siren from the ship, it was claimed
The tradition appears to have begun when the wife of a former senior officer lived on the island and he would take the ship close to Giglio to greet her. There were reports last night that the vessel's current officers had a friend ashore, from the Italian merchant navy, who they wanted to salute in a similar manner.
As the ship approached the port from the south, it sailed too close to the coastline and struck a rocky reef a few hundred yards out. Ships usually pass by up to five miles away.
The vessel keeled on its side after the captain tried to turn around and head into the island’s port in an apparent attempt to make it easier to evacuate.
Franco Verusio, the procurator of Grosseto who is leading the investigation, reportedly said: “Schettino approached the island of Giglio in a carelessly clumsy manner.
“The ship hit a reef which embedded itself in the left flank, the ship listed and took on lots of water in the space of two or three minutes. Captain Schettino was in command at that point.
“He was the one who ordered that course to be taken, at least according to what we have discovered. There was someone in particular that wanted to be signalled from the ship.”
Schettino, who is being questioned on suspicion of multiple manslaughter, said yesterday that the reef had not appeared on nautical charts and had not been picked up by the ship's navigation systems.
“We should have had deep water beneath us,” he said. “We were about 300 metres [1,000ft] from the rocks more or less.”
Schettino’s lawyer, Bruno Leporatti, said his client’s manoeuvre had saved the lives of “several hundred people”.
The captain denied claims that he left the ship before the last of the passengers had been evacuated, insisting he was the last to leave.
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