The Costa Concordia disaster has been largely blamed on Captain Francesco Schettino, who was steering the great liner when it crashed into the rocks off the shore of Italy’s Giglio Island. Schettino, who passed a drug test today, has been charged with multiple counts of manslaughter and abandoning ship in connection to the disaster. Thus far, his criminal defense lawyer was one of the few to claim Schettino’s innocence.
Schettino’s wife, Fabiola Russo, has now come to his defense in the press, telling Italian news that he is “no monster” and that he as been vilified. “My husband is not a monster. He was always the go-to guy for the crew. This is a witch-hunt. Everyone is out to get him,” Russo told reporters. “He knows how to do his job but sometimes even those people can make mistakes… that’s if he did make a mistake.”
Her comments came among claims that there may have been some other factors in the accident. Firstly, Schettino, who indicated before that he had gone off-course of his own free will to greet a former Costa coworker, has change the story slightly to say that the deviation from course was actually ordered by the cruise line to do so as a publicity stunt, even claiming that the “salute” had been mentioned in a newsletter produced by the ship.
This notion seems to contradict his prior statement: “It’s true that the salute was for Commodore Mario Palombo, with whom I was on the telephone. The route was decided as we left Civitavecchia but I made a mistake on the approach. I was navigating by sight because I knew the depths well and I had done this maneuver three or four times. But this time I ordered the turn too late and I ended up in water that was too shallow. I don’t know why it happened, I was a victim of my instincts.” Although he doesn’t explicitly state that the route was unofficial, he made no mention of plans with the cruise line, instead saying that the route was decided as the giant liner left the harbor.
Another argument for Schettino’s innocence is that the deck of the Costa Concordia was crowded with unnecessary people, which distracted the captain. Silvia Coronika, third-in-command on the doomed ship, told reporters that “the people on the bridge who arrived with Schettino were a disturbance to the sailing. There was a lot of confusion and my recollection is a little unclear because of all the chaos from the shouting and the various messages that were going backwards and forwards… I just want to say that there was a number of people present on the bridge with Schettino and who were not relevant to sailing the ship, including the purser. There were people asking what island it was, the purser was chatting away, in short they were disturbing the navigation of the ship and it led to a drop in attention.”
Whether or not Schettino is to blame, passengers of the cruise ship are livid and Costa has promised to give all of them a full refund and reimbursement of expense incurred by the disaster. There was some passenger anger when Costa also offered a 30% discount on future cruises, which some regarded as an insult.