herald

Wednesday 22 November 2017

Calamity captain said it was just a blackout

A new audiotape has emerged of the captain of the stricken Costa Concordia insisting that the vessel only had a blackout a full 30 minutes after it had rammed into a reef.

The tape is of the first contact between Livorno port officials and Capt Francesco Schettino.

The captain, who left the ship before everyone was safely evacuated, is under house arrest, facing possible charges of manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning his ship.

The Costa Concordia was carrying more than 4,200 passengers and crew when it slammed into well-charted rocks off the Tuscan island of Giglio after Schettino made an unauthorised diversion.

Eleven people have been confirmed dead and 21 others are still missing.

The recording between Schettino and port officials began at 10.12pm on Friday last, 30 minutes after the ship hit a reef and passengers had fled the dining room to get their life jackets.

Recordings of Schettino's conversations with coast guard officials after the ship capsized have shown how he resisted repeated orders to return on board to oversee the evacuation. In the newly released recording, the first communication between the ship and Livorno port authorities, Schettino is heard assuring the officer that he was checking out the reasons for the blackout. But he does not say that the ship had hit a reef.

"We are verifying the conditions on board," Schettino replies. Asked if passengers had been told to put on life jackets, he responds: "Correct."

Crew members and passengers have complained about the chaotic evacuation and the lack of direction from the ship's management.

hnews@herald.ie

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