Concordia captain faces judgment day

Concordia captain faces judgment day

The captain of the Costa Concordia is awaiting a verdict today or tomorrow on whether he is guilty of multiple manslaughter.

The prosecution at the long-running trail of Francesco Schettino has demanded that he be jailed for 26 years but the captain denies all the charges against him.

He also denies abandoning the ship before the evacuation was completed.

Thirty-two people died in January 2012 when the ship was steered too close to the island of Giglio and hit rocks.

Prosecution and defence lawyers have made final statements, and the judges are reportedly close to delivering their verdict.

"There is a tsunami of evidence against Francesco Schettino but he has admitted to nothing," Stefano Pizza, a prosecutor, told the court in Grosseto, Tuscany, where the trial started in July 2013.

"It was a Titanic affair that merits adequate punishment."

Calling the captain's conduct during the disaster "reprehensible", the prosecutor added: "It would be easier for a lawyer to fly than to defend Schettino."

The prosecution rejected the argument of Schettino's lawyers that he had unfairly been made a scapegoat and that the other officers who were on the bridge on the night of the disaster should have been tried alongside him.

The judges are expected to deliver their verdict after the defence summed up on Monday.

One of his lawyers, Domenico Pepe, said: “Capt Schettino had just 45 minutes, in the middle of great adversity, to decide on the fate of more than 4,000 people, on how to save their lives.

“He is not an armchair sailor, he knew how to read the winds and the currents.

“If he had given the order to abandon ship straight away, a kilometer from the coast, the ship would have been uncontrollable, not all the lifeboats would have reached the water intact.

“More than 4,000 people could have died. His decision ensured that the vast majority of them were saved.”

But prosecutors said the captain's decision to delay the order to abandon ship was directly responsible for the deaths of 32 people, who were trapped inside the ship or sucked beneath it after jumping into ice-cold water.

Instead of an orderly evacuation, it was "every man for himself", said Alessandro Leopizzi, another prosecutor.

"His conduct has a peculiarity that puts him at the centre," he said. "The others were his subordinates. Schettino was the master of the handling of the emergency."

Four of the ship's officers, as well as a manager of Costa Cruises, struck plea bargains for their roles in the disaster and received suspended sentences.

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