Yesterday’s news, that Costa Concordia Captain Francesco Schettino was being released from several months confinement to his Sorrento home after the capsizing of a cruise ship that resulted in 32 dead, was shocking enough. As we reported, Schettino “has been released from house arrest by Italian judges. Though he may now leave his house, he may not leave his home town while the case against him continues.”
Over on Cruise Critic’s Facebook page, debate over his release rages, with poster Dennis Basile’s comment striking a cord. “I think the fact that he was even under house arrest as opposed to being confined in a prison is disgusting. His gross negligence caused many to lose their lives and forever changed the lives of many others. On top of his negligence he then left the crew and passengers on the sinking ship.”
But here’s where yesterday’s developments get even nuttier. As a result of his release from house arrest, the former Costa captain’s communications are no longer restricted, and he may speak with people other than his close family and lawyer.
And speak he did.
In a letter released yesterday from his lawyer, Schettino gave his side of the story of the ship’s capsizing on Friday, January 13. It’s definitely quite a story.
“A divine hand surely touched my head,” he wrote in the letter, making the point that he helped prevent the capsizing from becoming an even worse disaster than it could have been. After hitting the rocks, it was his maneuvering that saved lives, he said.
“If I had continued on that path the ship’s prow would have hit the rock. It would have been carnage.”
In the events leading up to the capsizing, the ship, he said, was off its predetermined course. Well, that’s clearly true. But here come the head-scratchers: First, he claims he didn’t know the ship was off course, which doesn’t make sense as he’s always claimed he was told to bring the ship closer to land than what was originally charted for a “salute.”
Second, he said it was only when he saw “white foam” in front of the ship that he realized they were too close to the rocks. “That was the sign that led me to give the order to steer starboard, by pure instinct,” he wrote. “In that moment a divine hand no doubt rested upon my head. If I had continued on that path the ship’s prow would have hit the rock. It would have been carnage.”
His subsequent maneuvering of the ship “created the best possible circumstances to save everyone, regardless of how events subsequently unfolded,” he added.
Seriously. This, despite subsequent events that included a two-hour evacuation that didn’t even begin until more than an hour after the accident and was essentially started by passengers who took it upon themselves to grab their lifejackets and assemble near lifeboats.
“The dilemma was whether to evacuate or not. Evacuating over 4,000 people from a boat in motion has its risks. To do it would have been almost a liberation for me, but my conscience meant I could not do it lightheartedly.”
And there’s this: “A captain can take the time required to evaluate the emergency without creating panic.”
From everything we’ve heard and read about the incident, the time he took was exactly what caused the panic.
What’s your take?
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