OCTOBER 18, 2012 — Former Costa Concordia captain Francesco Schettino spoke in court for the first time today as a hearing continues in Grosseto, Italy, into whether he and a number of others should face criminal charges in relation to the January grounding of the cruise ship that led to the loss of 32 lives.
According to Italian media reports, Captain Schettino spoke in defense of the maneuver he took after the ship first struck a rock. Prosecutor Francesco Verusio had said that bringing the ship in close to shore was not thanks to Schettino, but to the "hand of the good God", the forward movement of the ship and favorable weather conditions.
"It wasn't (just) a maneuver, it was a decision," Captain Schettino later told TG1 television news.
Media reports say that Schettino was reportedly very "combative" toward expert witnesses regarding his behavior at the helm, after presiding Judge Valeria Montesarchio gave him permission to speak to them directly.
Schettino's defense team also presented 200 challenges to the prosecution's technical assessment of the shipwreck.
A report in the U.K.'s Daily Telegraph notes that Captain Fredrik Van Wijnen, the general secretary of the Confederation of European Shipmasters' Associations, has traveled to Grosseto to show solidarity with Capt Schettino.
"He intended to go close to the island but he was depending on other people. As soon as he saw that something was going wrong, he took action," Captain Van Wijnen is quoted as saying.
Captain Van Wijnen also defended Captain Schettino's decision to leave the ship before all passengers had been evacuated, telling the Daily Telegraph that it was erroneous to assume that a ship's commander should be the last person to abandon a sinking vessel.
"Being a captain doesn't mean having to commit suicide. He didn't desert the ship, he went ashore and coordinated the rescue from there," said Captain Van Wijnen,
The Daily Telegraph quotes Schettino's lawyer, Francesco Pepe. as saying the captain was not solely responsible for the accident.
"It needs to be established that others may have contributed as well. Schettino is very confident because the real pattern of responsibility is beginning to emerge," he said.
Others who have been under investigation in the case and face possible prosecution include Costa Crociere executives Roberto Ferrarini, Manfred Ursprunger and Paolo Mattesi.