After Concordia: Court Experts Broaden Blame for Disaster to Crew, Cruise Line

September 14, 2012

(4:40 p.m. EDT) – Court-appointed experts say that the captain of the Costa Concordia is almost entirely to blame for the January disaster that left 32 people dead. But they also found significant fault with Costa Crociere and the ship's crew.

The experts, ordered by an Italian court to help determine who else beyond the captain should be held accountable for the tragic event, accused the cruise line and ship's crew for "blunders, delays and security breaches that contributed to the disaster," the New York Times reported.

According to ABC News, the findings of the four experts were released in a 270-page analysis, in which the accident is described in second-by-second detail. In the report, Costa Crociere is accused of delaying the emergency alert sent to coastal authorities, while crewmembers are said to have bungled directions and not understood orders. Moreover, experts also contend some crew were not adequately trained or certified in security and emergency drills.

Costa Crociere, meanwhile released its own statement, refuting several of the experts' findings.

The cruise line says that all the blame lies with the captain and that it did not delay emergency alerts. Instead, the cruise line contends it is the legal responsibility of the ship's captain to alert all authorities and that Costa officials were told by Captain Schettino that he had done so.

The line further proclaims its ignorance of the severity of the situation, saying "It is also clear from the records that the communication made by the Master to the crisis department were on the whole not timely, partial and confused, not allowing it to scale a clear perception of the seriousness of what was actually happening."

The line also refuted the claim that ship's crew were not adequately trained, stating the "defects in certifications of some of the crew" were not key to emergency management.

However, firsthand accounts from passengers indicate crew members were unorganized in their evacuation attempts, often offering conflicting instructions or having trouble communicating through language barriers.

The ship's captain, Francesco Schettino, remains accused of causing the wreck, abandoning ship before all passengers were off and 32 counts of manslaughter. Eight other people, including crewmembers and Costa's crisis coordinator, also are under investigation. A hearing is scheduled for October 15, 2012.

--by Dori Saltzman, News Editor