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  • 6 August 2014, 20:27

Costa Concordia Captain Gives Panic Lecture

Cruise ship captain Francesco Schettino has sparked outrage by giving a lecture to students on how to ''panic control'' - while standing trial for wrecking the luxury liner he was commanding.

Schettino, 52, who was dubbed "Captain Calamity" after it emerged he steered the Costa Concordia on to rocks in a sail-by salute, gave a two-hour talk to students as part of their criminal science masters course.

He is currently facing charges of abandoning ship, causing a disaster and multiple manslaughter - with prosecutors claiming his poor handling of the disaster added to the tragedy. Thirty-two people died in the disaster.

Schettino had been invited to speak by professor Vincenzo Mastronardi, who teaches at the La Sapienza University's Faculty of Medicine in Rome, Italy.

He took to the microphone at an off-campus event after a 3D reconstruction of the sinking of the Concordia off the island of Giglio in 2012 was shown to the students by engineer Ivan Paduano.

Schettino then told the audience at the Aviator Club in Rome that what had happened to him was ''only an accident'' - failing to mention how he had told investigators he had ''tripped and stumbled into a lifeboat'' the night of the disaster.

Prosecutors say he failed to notify authorities quickly enough of the seriousness of what had happened to the Concordia and that he had abandoned the ship when there were more than 300 passengers and crew still on board.

Witnesses have told his trial that, in the minutes after the liner struck rock a ''panic-stricken Schettino ran his fingers through his hair shouting 'Madonna what have I done'" - only adding to questions over the suitability of him giving the lecture.

He spoke of his experiences as a cruise ship captain, adding that he had been asked to give the talk as he was ''an expert''.

Schettino said: "I had to illustrate how best to control panic management - or better still show how a human being behaves in situations of that nature.

"I have voyaged across all the oceans of the world. I know how to react when these situations arise and how to react when you have an ethnically diverse crew. Every choice I made had a fundamental human component.

''There are academic studies which compare what happened the disaster of the Costa Concordia to other similar tragedies. For example, the Twin Towers, how is it that during that attack people threw themselves from windows but didn't do the same on the Concordia? I was actually given an academic award for my presentation.''

However, the news of his participation has sparked outrage within Italy, with the media labelling it another ''shocking embarrassment'' for the country - reminding people how Schettino had also been ordered to ''Get back on board for f***'s sake'' by a furious coastguard official after he confessed he had left the Concordia.

La Sapineza chancellor Luigi Frati said: "We distance ourselves from this serious episode and condemn it profoundly. Professor Mastronardi has been referred to the university's ethics committee for a disciplinary investigation.''

Francesco Verusio, who is prosecuting Schettino, said: ''I am completely speechless at how some things are allowed to happen in this country. How on earth can someone invite Schettino to give a lecture at a university?

''How can a university professor, a man of culture who is supposed to transmit to young people the principles of university education, invite Schettino? What sort of image does that give our country?

''He gave a two-hour lecture and then he was awarded a diploma. A diploma for what? I hope the students made fun of him.''

Professor Mastronardi said: ''It's right that I have been referred to a disciplinary hearing - I would have done the same in a similar situation. It gives me the opportunity to clarify matters in the appropriate venue.

''All I will say is that I did not invite Schettino, he just turned up 10 minutes before the lecture started completely by surprise. He explained that if he had immediately lowered the anchors the ship would have sunk straight away.

''He told the audience that, by handling the psychology of the situation, he had to ensure not to cause alarm and create a panic.''

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