Captain drove liner like a Ferrari, say prosecutors


THE captain of the Costa Concordia drove his ship like a Ferrari and was trying to show off by sailing close to the island of Giglio, prosecutors claimed in a bail hearing.
Captain Francesco Schettino was released from jail to house arrest and ordered to face a drug test as the number of confirmed dead from the wreck of his ship rose to 11, and the operations were due to shift overnight from rescue to salvage. Twenty-four people remain missing.
Once efforts to rescue them have been declared over, a Dutch salvage team will begin drilling through the ship towards 17 tanks that hold more than 2000 tonnes of fuel.
They will try to prevent leakage that would cause an environmental disaster. Speaking to reporters on Giglio Island on Tuesday night after meeting the mayor and local people, the president of the cruise liner company Costa Crociere, Pier Luigi Foschi, said the main missions were still to find any remaining survivors.
“The hope that someone is still alive is always with us,” he said. The hope was also to avoid an environmental tragedy by “taking away this giant, which has come here to die”. It has emerged that a junior officer challenged Captain Schettino’s authority when the captain went into denial and refused to issue a mayday.
Statements from the crew claim a second officer, Roberto Bosio, decided to take action and ordered the lifeboats to be lowered, even though the captain was not responding to reports of flooding in the engine and generator rooms.
One junior officer said in a statement: “For the first 40 minutes after the impact the ship stayed upright. We could easily have lowered the lifeboats from both sides. We could have reached dry land without even getting our feet wet.”
Captain Schettino says his actions saved hundreds of lives that night, and his wife, Fabiola, issued a statement defending his professionalism and asking people to understand the human impact of the tragedy on him.
But transcripts of radio calls and telephone recordings between him and the coast guard contain an extraordinary exchange in which a coastguard official roars at him to get back to his ship to oversee the evacuation, yelling:”Get the f— aboard!”

First published in The Age.