Italy court rules Concordia captain unfit for command

ROME Wed May 16, 2012 12:43pm EDT

ROME May 16 (Reuters) - Italy's top appeals court ruled on Wednesday that Francesco Schettino, the captain of the Costa Concordia, was unfit to command the cruise liner which ran aground and capsized off the Tuscan island of Giglio in January, causing at least 30 deaths.

In a written explanation of its decision to maintain a house arrest order against Schettino, the Court of Cassation said he had shown "little resilience in performing command functions or in handling responsibility for the safety of persons under his care."

Schettino has been accused of wrecking the 114,500 tonne liner by bringing it too close to shore, where a rocky ledge tore a gash in its side and made it keel over and sink.

Investigators also accuse Schettino of delaying evacuation and losing control of the operation, during which he abandoned ship before all 4,200 passengers and crew had been taken off the vessel.

He has been charged with multiple manslaughter, causing the accident and abandoning ship prematurely. A pre-trial hearing was held in Grosseto, near Florence, in March.

The Court of Cassation said Schettino had shown himself unable to manage a crisis and to ensure the safety of his passengers and crew and said there would be a risk of a repeat of the disaster if he were given a command again.

That part of the ruling justified the decision to keep Schettino under house arrest at his home in Meta di Sorrento, near Naples in southern Italy, as a concrete danger of a recurrence must be shown for the arrest order to be upheld.

Thirty bodies were recovered and two are missing. The wreck lies on its side in some 20 metres of water within a stone's throw of the picturesque island port.

Salvage experts are expected to stabilise the wreck by August and then refloat it and remove it from the marine natural park off the Tuscan coast where it sank.

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