Concordia owner admits captain may be to blame

An Italian coast guard official demanded that the captain go back to his capsizing cruise ship Costa Concordia to supervise the evacuation of passengers, but the captain was in denial and then fell to pieces, according to a shocking audiotape made public.  Prosecutors have accused Captain Francesco Schettino of manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning his vessel off the Tuscan coast. As of January 29, the death toll is 17, with some passengers still missing.

The owners of the capsized Costa Concordia issued a statement, admitting the cause of the disaster could be the captain’s “significant human error”.

“We at Costa Cruises are deeply saddened by this tragedy, and our hearts and prayers go out to everyone affected and we offer the victims’ families our heartfelt condolences.

“We are working with investigators to find out precisely what went wrong aboard the Costa Concordia. While the investigation is ongoing, preliminary indications are that there may have been significant human error on the part of the ship’s master, Captain Francesco Schettino, which resulted in these grave consequences.  The route of the vessel appears to have been too close to the shore, and the captain’s judgement in handling the emergency appears to have not followed standard Costa procedures.”

The cruise chip hit a reef off the Tuscan coast on January 14 and quickly listed. Over 4000 passengers scrambled to get off the ship. Italian authorities are holding the captain for suspected manslaughter.

“We are aware that the lead prosecutor has levelled serious accusations against the ship’s captain, who joined Costa Crociere in 2002 as a safety officer and was appointed captain in 2006, after acting as staff captain as well. As all Costa masters, he has been constantly trained passing all tests. In light of these accusations and the continuing investigation, it would be inappropriate for us to comment further at this time,” the cruise company says.

“We are working closely with the authorities to support ongoing search and rescue operations, and are focusing on ensuring that all guests and crew members return home safely.  Our immediate priority is to account for all passengers and crew and to secure the vessel to ensure that there are no environmental impacts,” Costa says.

“We have engaged the services of a worldwide leader – a specialised salvage company – to develop an action plan and help establish a protection perimeter around the ship.  It should be noted that the prosecutor in charge has seized the ship and the DVR – the black box containing all navigation data and the vessel which can be accessed by Costa only with permission from the authorities.

“However, as we are learn more about the event itself and the evacuation, it is becoming clear that the crew of the Costa Concordia acted bravely and swiftly to help evacuate more than 4,000 individuals during a very challenging situation.  We are very grateful for all they have done.

“Costa is committed to ensuring that no such incident ever occurs again.  Our number one priority is always the safety and security of our guests and crew and we comply with all safety regulations.”

There are lifeboats and jackets on board the Concordia in excess of the number required for all passengers and crew, Costa says.

Lifeboats are equipped with food and water supplies, first aid kits and communication and signalling equipment.  All life-saving appliances are aligned to international standards and are subject to close, regular inspection by shipboard personnel and certification authorities.  All Costa ships have been built to the highest standards and technologies, the company says.

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