Captain of the capsized Costa Concordia is finally facing trial. An Italian judge has ordered that Francesco Schettino, 52, face charges of manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning ship.
The trial is due to begin on July 9th in Grosseto.
Five other defendants sought plea deals, and their cases shall be judged separately. They include four ship’s officers and one company official from Costa Crociere.
Schettino himself had sought a plea deal of three years and four months in prison, but this was rejected by prosecutors who said Schettino bore most of the responsibility for the disaster. If convicted of the charges against him he could face up to 20 years in prison.
Francesco Pepe, one of Schettino’s lawyer’s said in a statement that “the indictment certainly did not come unexpected” and described the 52-year olds mood as “attentive and focussed on the case”. He also said “It’s like a driver whose bus goes off-road. He had an accident and done all he could to reduce its consequences”.
Schettino’s lawyers tried to convince Judge Paolo Molino to drop the charges against him of abandoning ship but the judge ruled that was sufficient evidence to prove that Schettino had left the vessel voluntarily.
The Costa Concordia went down last January after sailing too close to the island of Giglio. Schettino demands that superiors ordered him to get close to the island for better sightseeing. The vessel hit a rock which tore through her hull and she steadily took on water until she finally capsized.
In April, Costa Crociere struck a plea bargain and agreed to pay $1.28 million for administrative offences related to the charges against its employee’s. A company spokesperson did confirm that 80% of those on board, including crew that had received serious injuries in the disaster had received compensation from the cruise line.