11 Bodies Recovered, Nearly Two Dozen Remain Missing
On Wednesday morning, search and rescue crews were forced to suspend operations as the Concordia began shifting along the rocks. Coast Guard officials say the chance of finding survivors at this point is slim. Experts say that anyone who may have survived and has an air supply would have probably succumbed to hypothermia by now. As of Wednesday 11 bodies have been recovered and more than 20 remain missing. Transcripts, leaked today, of an interrogation of Captain Schettino by Italian authorities reveal the captain admitting that he had given the order to turn too late. Italian prosecutors have filed court documents that claim the captain was piloting the ship at speeds too high to adequately navigate the vessel away from danger. According to the BBC Capt Schettino told the investigating judge in Grosseto that he sailed close to the small island as a salute to a former captain who lives on the small island.
Schettino is now on house arrest and faces possible charges of manslaughter, abandoning a ship with passengers still onboard and shipwreck. Lloyd’s List reports that this isn’t the first time the Concordia has gone off course in this area. Satellite data shows that the Concordia came within 755 feet of the Giglio shore on August 14, 2011 – a distance even closer than where it ran aground on Friday. Schettino initially told coast guard officials that he had abandoned ship, but is now telling prosecutors that he was thrown overboard when the ship struck the rock. The black boxes that were recovered reveal the captain was on the bridge when the decision was made to go off course and when the order to turn was given too late. Prosecutors are investigating to determine if anyone else might share in the responsibility of Friday’s incident.
Also on Wednesday, the President of Registro Italiano Navale (RINA), Gianni Scerni, announced his resignation. RINA, a ship classification and certification society, was responsible for classifying and certifying the Costa Concordia – which included the ships design, maintenance, ship management and safety standards. Scerni’s resignation appears to be a result of Friday’s incident.
On Tuesday Italian rescue teams recovered the bodies of four men and one woman, bringing the death toll to 11. Divers used explosives to blow holes in the ship’s hull and gain access to areas they had not yet searched.
Twenty-three are still missing after the Italian cruise ship ran aground Friday night off the coast of Giglio. The Italian Coast Guard says 14 Germans, 6 Italians, 4 French, 2 Americans and one each from Hungary, India and Peru are among those missing. Six of those listed have now been found dead, but officials have not indicated the nationality of the bodies recovered. Also, on Tuesday, the local coast guard announced it had located a second black box data recorder. Prosecutors are using information contained in the two black boxes to build their case.
Prosecutors say that coast guard officials ordered Capt. Schettino to return to his stricken ship late Friday night to coordinate the rescue effort, but he refused to return. Schettino is being detained and could face charges of manslaughter, shipwreck and abandoning a ship when passengers were still onboard. He faces up to 15 years in prison. Italian prosecutors deny that the accident was caused by a technical error and blame the captain for making a grave decision. The Costa Concordia ran aground on rocks off the coast off Giglio around 8 p.m. local time. When it ran aground the Concordia had 3,200 passengers and 1,000 crew members on board. The ship was also carrying 2,300 tons of fuel – no signs of leakage have been reported and salvage efforts will soon be underway to remove the fuel. Survivors say the evacuation was chaotic and many compare it to the Titanic. Lifeboat boarding was made even more difficult because of the increasing list of the ship. Much of the chaos was due to the fact that the ship had not yet done its emergency response drills at the time of the accident – they were scheduled for Saturday afternoon.
Interview with Captain Francesco Schettino (Jan 15, 2012): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ukfZrGNYcLs&feature=player_embedded
British Passenger Describes Dramatic Rescue: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cg5RJYOSqGs&feature=player_embedded
Recording reveals coastguard told captain to 'get back on board: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-16597277