UK & World News

  • 10 December 2013, 1:07

Costa Concordia: Many On Board As Captain Fled

Francesco Schettino, the captain of the doomed Costa Concordia, has come face to face in an Italian court with the tough-talking coastguard official who demanded he get back on board the cruise ship as he fled on a lifeboat.

Commander Gregorio De Falco famously told Schettino to "get back on board, dammit," as the Costa Concordia slowly capsized off the Italian island of Giglio in January 2012 after Schettino steered the ship into rocks, costing 32 people their lives.

Standing trial for manslaughter and abandoning ship, Mr Schettino looked down and shuffled papers on Monday as the recording of the conversation was played to the court.

"I still ask myself today why he got off the ship," Mr De Falco told the trial in the Tuscan town of Grosetto.

As the ship took on water after being holed by rocks, Mr De Falco said he received assurances from officers on board that the Costa Concordia had suffered a mere black-out.

But his suspicions were raised when a passenger among the 4,200 people on board rang police on the mainland to say people were donning lifejackets.

The court heard a recording of a second coastguard official being assured by Mr Schettino that he would stay on board to oversee evacuation.

But at 12.28am, about two and a half hours after the impact, Mr Schettino admitted he was on a lifeboat, but claimed only about 10 people were left on board, even though coastguards believed between two and three hundred passengers were still on the ship.

Mr De Falco then asked: "How many people can you see in the water? Are there women, children? How many are there? Are people jumping into the water?"

But Mr Schettino merely repeated his assertion that only a few people were left on board.

"I urged Captain Schettino to get back on the ship but did not succeed," Mr De Falco said.

Mr Schettino, who claims he saved lives by steering the ailing ships onto rocks, spoke frequently with his lawyers, shook his head and smiled nervously as the most heated phone exchanges were played in court.

:: Watch Sky News live on television, on Sky channel 501, Virgin Media channel 602, Freeview channel 82 and Freesat channel 202.