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COSTA CONCORDIA: Francesco Schettino Tries to Cover Tracks

Captain Francesco Schettino of the Costa Concordia, the purported cause of the Costa Concordia disaster, apparently tried to cover his tracks early on by first downplaying the seriousness of the damage, then asking a Costa employee to fabricate the order of events a bit. Schettino is currently on house arrest at his home south of Naples in Italy, awaiting trial on charges of abandoning ship and multiple counts of manslaughter. His criminal defense attorney says that authorities are investigating other possible leads.

Roberto Ferrarini, Costa cruises marine operations director, says that he spoke to Schettino during 17 separate calls the night of the accident. The first was a mere 15 minutes after the giant cruise ship first hit the rocks off of the coast of Giglio Island. He was told that the ship had bumped an outcrop but that only one of the water-tight compartments had been compromised. Schettino reportedly kept the charade up for about an hour, during which Ferrarini said he sounded calm.

45 minutes after he first spoke to Ferrarini, Schettino reported that he was going to abandon ship. Ferrarini said that this came out of the blue, considering Schettino’s demeanor and reports during previous phone calls.

Ferrarini also told an Italian Senate committee that Schettino wanted to “agree with me the position to take with the authorities, to whom he wanted to say that the ship first had a sudden blackout, after which it hit the reef.” This was not in accordance to what Ferrarini had discussed with Schettino less than an hour before, and Ferrarini says he immediately rebuked the captain and told him that he needed to come clean about the accident.

Interestingly, the first few correspondences between the Italian Coast Guard and the Costa Concordia had to do with power failure rather than the accident, perhaps in an attempt to conceal the gravity of the situation. Transcripts show that the Coast Guard spoke to an unidentified person aboard the cruise ship multiple times and was assured that it was just a power failure, it wasn’t a big deal, and that there was no accident.

Passengers and crew had complained that Captain Schettino had spent the hour after the accident on his phone rather than evacuating the ship. Considering Ferrarini’s testimony, it is likely that Schettino was speaking to Ferrarini, among others.

During Schettino’s interrogation by Italian investigators, he said that he kept Ferrarini informed about the scale of the damage. “I hit this projection of rock, that seems almost stuck into the ship, but this was my mistake,” Schettino, who passed a drug test this week, said “… There isn’t anything I can say, as I was convinced that passing within .28 of a mile there wouldn’t be any problem.

“I told [Ferrarini]: I’ve got myself into a mess, there was contact with the seabed. I am telling you the truth, we passed under Giglio and there was an impact… I can’t remember how many times I called him in the following hour and 15 minutes. In any case, I am certain that I informed Ferrarini about everything in real time.”

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