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  • 27 February 2014, 16:58

Concordia's Captain Returns To Stricken Liner

The Costa Concordia's captain has returned to the ship for the first time since it capsized killing 32 people.

Francesco Schettino's visit was part of a court-ordered inspection in the ongoing trial against him for multiple counts of manslaughter and abandoning ship before all passengers had been evacuated.

Wearing a leather jacket, mirrored sunglasses and a life jacket, he was mobbed by reporters as he arrived for a pre-visit meeting at a hotel on Giglio, a tiny island off the coast of Tuscany.

He refused to answer questions, telling journalists to "get out of the way", as one local resident shouted in Italian: "Drown yourself."

Earlier, he told an Italian TV station:"They want to show I'm weak, just like two years ago. It's not true. I want to show I'm a gentleman, not a coward."

The technical inspection of the ship will focus on a lift where several of the victims died, as well as an emergency diesel generator which the defence says malfunctioned on the night of the disaster on January 13, 2012.

More than 4,229 people from 70 countries were on board when the giant luxury liner crashed into rocks off Giglio.

Schettino is accused of deliberately altering the course of the Concordia in order to carry out a sail-by salute of the island in order to impress local residents and passengers.

The Italian was dubbed 'Captain Coward' by some tabloid newspapers after reportedly refusing orders from the coastguard to return to the ship to help with the rescue operation.

The 53-year-old, who was allegedly on the bridge with hisMoldovanloverDomnica Cemortan, claimed it was ''too dark to see anything'' and told investigators he had not fled but had ''tripped and fell into a lifeboat".

Speaking ahead of his return to the scene of the crash, he told Italian TV: "I'm a gallant man and I didn't run away. Lots of lies have been told about that night."

Dozens of Giglio residents gathered around the island's picturesque harbour as Schettino set off on the 10-minute crossing to the Concordia wreck.

Local mayorSergio Ortelli said: ''What's important is that a clear picture of what happened that night emerges. That's what everyone on Giglio wants."

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