Indictment Hearings Begin in Concordia Trial

April 15, 2013
(9:30 a.m. EDT) -- An Italian court has begun hearings to determine whether Captain Francesco Schettino and five other employees of Costa Cruises will face trial for charges related to the Costa Concordia disaster, which killed 32 people.

Prosecutors in the case are requesting that Schettino, who was present at the proceedings Monday, face trial for charges including manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning ship before the over 4,200 passengers and crew onboard had been evacuated.

Manslaughter indictments have been requested for four other crewmembers in the case, including the ship's helmsman. The sixth Costa employee facing possible indictment -- of manslaughter and delaying rescue operations -- is Roberto Ferrarini, the head of Costa Crociere's crisis unit.

It will be some time before the court rules whether to pursue indictments and trial. The AFP reports 40 pretrial hearings are scheduled in Grosetto, the city nearest to the site of the shipwreck, through July.

According to reports, the hearings are taking place in a theater because there was no courtroom in Grosetto that could accommodate all the civil parties to the case. Although a judge fined Costa Cruises one million euros ($1.3 million) in administrative sanctions under a plea bargain agreement last week, the agreement doesn't stop private civil lawsuits from being filed.

Many Concordia survivors accepted Costa's initial compensation offering -- about $14,000 each and reimbursement of travel costs -- but hundreds have declined and are pursuing civil lawsuits against the line.

U.K. newspaper The Independent quoted Massimiliano Gabrieli, a lawyer representing several dozen Italian passengers, who said: "As far as we know, the latest negotiations reached 27,000 euros, as a last offer from Costa."

Gabrieli said he would reject the offer: "We will ask for 1 million euros of compensation for each passenger."

--by Jamey Bergman, U.K. Production Editor