Tue, Jan 17, 2012 - Page 6 News List

Captain made errors: ship owner

AFP, GIGLIO ISLAND, ITALY

Relatives hug each other upon the arrival of the 31 passengers who survived the Costa Concordia accident early yesterday at the Saint Denis de la Reunion airport, on the French Indian Ocean island of La Reunion.

Photo: AFP

The owner of the luxury liner that ran aground off the coast of Italy, killing at least six people, said its captain had made “errors of judgement” as the search continued for the missing.

Rescuers desperately working through the night found the body of a man in the wreckage of the Costa Concordia early yesterday, taking the death toll from the disaster to six, ANSA news agency reported.

About 15 people, including Italian, US and French nationals, are still missing after the massive ship hit rocks and capsized off the island of Giglio late on Friday shortly after it began a seven-day Mediterranean cruise.

“It seems that the commander made errors of judgement that had serious consequences,” a statement from the liner’s owner, Costa Crociere, said, referring to Captain Francesco Schettino. “His decisions in the management of the emergency did not follow Costa Crociere’s procedures, which are in line with international standards.”

The prosecutor leading the investigation, Francesco Verusio, told reporters that Schettino, who was arrested on Saturday with first officer Ciro Ambrosio, had left the stricken liner “well before” the last passengers were evacuated.

Coast guard officials also said the captain ignored repeated requests from them to return to his ship as the rescue operation continued.

“The route followed by the ship was not the right one,” Verusio said, accusing Schettino of having “approached Giglio island in a very clumsy manner.”

Prosecutors have also said the crew mishandled the emergency, delaying the start of the evacuation until an hour after the accident, and survivors have spoken of scenes of utter chaos and panic on board the 17-deck liner.

Genoa-based Costa Crociere, which is Europe’s biggest cruise operator, said it was cooperating with prosecutors in the probe.

On Sunday, emergency teams rescued two South Korean honeymooners and an Italian crewman suffering a broken leg.

However, the bodies of a Spanish man and an Italian were also discovered on Sunday in the submerged part of the vessel, after the deaths of two French passengers and a Peruvian crew member were confirmed on Saturday.

Medical sources said about 60 people had been injured, two seriously.

Fire brigade spokesman Luca Cari said the honeymooners had been evacuated by helicopter and were in “perfect condition.”

The Italian media are reporting that the ship’s two most senior officers could face charges of multiple homicide and abandoning the ship before all the passengers were rescued. However, other crew members said that they participated in the evacuations.

“We saved between 500 and 600 people. I made a dozen trips with the lifeboat, it was cold and windy,” Colombian crewman Edgard Lopez Sanchez said. “We are the heroes — the Colombians, the Hondurans, the Chinese, the crew made up of 20 nationalities.”

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