COSTA CONCORDIA: Captain not the only one to blame, says prosecutor

Edited from The Guardian, 2012.01.24. Bolds and italics are mine. 

The chief prosecutor overseeing the inquiry into the Costa Concordia shipwreck has urged investigators to look beyond the behaviour of the captain to the role played by the liner’s owners, Costa Cruises.

His remarks were published as salvage experts began the delicate task of pumping out around 2,400 tonnes of fuel to prevent an environmental disaster in the area where the vessel ran aground on 13 January.

Beniamino Deidda, the chief prosecutor of Tuscany, said in an interview carried by several Italian newspapers on Tuesday: “For the moment, attention is generally concentrated on the responsibility of the captain, who showed himself to be tragically inadequate. But who chooses the captain?”

He said investigators needed to lift their gaze to the decisions taken by “the employer; that is to say, the ship’s owner”.

Costa Cruises has from the outset put the blame for the accident squarely on the allegedly reckless behaviour of the captain, Francesco Schettino. He lost control of the 114,500-tonne Costa Concordia after hitting a rock as he skirted the shoreline of the island of Giglio in a ‘salute’ to a retired cruise line commodore.

But Deidda, who has spent a large part of his career dealing with health and safety cases, said numerous other issues needed to be addressed.

He specifically mentioned “lifeboats that did not come down, crew who did not know what to do [and] scant preparation in crisis management”.

He added it was “absurd” that in at least one instance, recorded on video after the Costa Concordia was holed, a member of the crew should have told passengers to return to their cabins.

Schettino has also maintained his employers have a shared responsibility for what happened. Among questions the inquiry is seeking to answer is why more than an hour elapsed between impact and the order to abandon ship.

Questioned by prosecutors last week, the captain said he was in frequent contact with a representative of the company during that period.

Schettino and his first officer are the sole formal suspects in the inquiry, which is considering whether to bring charges of manslaughter and the illegal abandoning of a ship. [...]

The voice of reason, at last!

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