Former Captain Francesco Schettino has taken the stand to testify in his own defense. Schettino is accused of negligence, which caused the sinking of the Costa Concordia and the loss of 32 lives. Although he has vehemently denied the accusations, authorities have determined the former captain is largely responsible for the catastrophe.
In January 2012, Costa Concordia set sail with 3,206 passengers and 1,023 crew members on board. The Italian cruise ship was scheduled for a seven-day trip from Civitavecchia to Savona, with several stops along the way.
On January 13, the ship’s captain made the decision to approach Isola del Giglio — which was not part of the planned route. As reported ABC News, Francesco Schettino testified that he was simply trying to “kill three birds with one stone.”
During his testimony, the former captain stated that he deviated from the planned course for three reasons: he was paying homage to a former commander who retired on the island, he wanted to impress the passengers with the view, and he was doing a favor for the ship’s maitre d’, a native of Isola del Giglio.
Unfortunately, the Costa Concordia was steered into the Le Scole reef, where it became impaled on a large rock. Although the ship began taking on water, and was visibly listing to one side, Francesco Schettino initially denied that it had run aground. Nearly one hour later, the former captain ordered an evacuation of the ship.
In addition to charges of negligence and manslaughter, Francesco Schettino is also accused of abandoning ship with passengers still aboard. As reported by ABC News, the former captain previously explained “that he accidentally fell into a lifeboat.”
On Wednesday, prosecutors shared a video, which clearly shows the former captain climbing into a lifeboat amid the chaos. Prosecutors said the clip proves Schlettino purposefully fled the sinking ship while many passengers and crew members were still aboard.
During Francesco Schettino’s testimony, prosecutors presented audio segments, which were recorded while the ship sank. Although cameras were not permitted in the courtroom, witnesses said the former captain’s testimony had a “theatrical flair.” According to reports, Schettino’s mood was “combative” and “defiant” during questioning.
Francesco Schettino’s testimony is expected to continue on Wednesday and conclude next week. CNN reports that the former captain said the trial has been “exhausting.” However, he believes “it is going well.” If convicted on all charges, the former captain will face up to 23 years in prison.
[Images via Komonews and NBC News]