Tributes as cruise sinking recalled
The wreck of the luxury cruise liner the Costa Concordia, which ran aground off the Tuscan island of Giglio with the loss of 32 lives a year ago, was recalled yesterday.
Relatives of the dead, survivors, rescue workers and state authorities attended a day of commemoration on the small island. It concluded last night with a harbourside vigil marked by the lighting of 32 lanterns in memory of the victims.
One man not in attendance was the ship’s controversial captain, Francesco Schettino, considered by many to bear the greatest responsibility for the tragedy.
Following pre-trial hearings last October, Capt Schettino, ship’s officers and members of a crisis unit set up by owners Costa Cruise, a subsidiary of US giant Carnival Corporation, are all expected to be indicted early next month.
It is believed that they will be charged with manslaughter, the causing of a shipwreck and abandoning ship.
The October hearings considered not only the evidence of some of the ship’s 4,000 survivors but also a 270-page report from a four-man panel of marine experts, who had access to the ship’s black box, its records, maps and computer hard disks.
That report blamed Capt Schettino, arguing that his infamous “sail-by” too close to land was entirely “avoidable”, while concluding that the manoeuvre, which saw the stricken ship run aground just metres from the Giglio shoreline, owed everything to “chance and good fortune”.
Capt Schettino has also been accused of having abandoned the ship before many of his 3,000 passengers had a chance to leave as well as having delayed sounding the “abandon ship” alarm by up to 45 minutes.
Capt Schettino, who is suing Costa Cruise for wrongful dismissal in the wake of the tragedy, has claimed that the company had called on him to “wait” before announcing the “abandon ship” alarm.
As of now, the Costa Concordia still rests on its side on a ledge just metres off the Giglio coastline.
A complex €400 million, ongoing salvage operation is expected to see the ship refloated and towed away to be broken up and scrapped by the end of the summer.
“After a year we are still traumatised,” said Violet Morreau, a survivor from France, at the ceremonies in Giglio yesterday.
“No one told us what to do ... we were scared of dying, like the people who did lose their lives, because of somebody else’s recklessness,” Ms Morreau said. – (Additional reporting Reuters)