Captain of wrecked Italian cruise liner says sorry
ROME (Reuters) - The captain of the wrecked cruise liner Costa Concordia apologized on Tuesday for the accident in which as many as 32 people died and said he had been distracted when the vast ship struck the rock which holed it.
In his first full television interview since the accident on January 13, Francesco Schettino acknowledged his responsibility as captain and said he thought constantly about the victims of the disaster.
"When there's an accident, it's not just the ship that's identified or the company," he told Italy's Canale 5 television, speaking calmly but with a pronounced tic in one eye. "The captain is identified and so it's normal that I should apologize as a representative of this system," he said.
Schettino, who is charged with multiple manslaughter, causing the accident and abandoning his ship, was speaking after being freed from house arrest last week.
The Naples-born captain admitted to failing to act decisively enough once it became clear the 144,500 tonne vessel had come too close to the island of Giglio off the Tuscan coast where it ran aground.
"This was a banal accident in which there was a breakdown in the interaction between human beings and it created misunderstandings and it's for this that there's so much rage," he said. "It was as though there was a blackout in everyone's heads and in the instruments."
"I blame myself for being distracted," he said but added the actual sailing of the ship was under the command of another officer at the time.
"At that moment, I went up to the deck and ordered the ship to be put on manual navigation and I didn't have command, that's to say being in charge of sailing the ship, that was the officer," he said.
Investigators have severely criticized Schettino's handling of the disaster, accusing him of bringing the 290 meter-long vessel too close to shore, delaying evacuation and losing control of the operation during which he abandoned ship before all the 4,200 passengers and crew had left the ship.
Schettino, who has been held up to abuse and ridicule following the accident, has always acknowledged making mistakes but has said he as not the only one who should be blamed for the tragedy.
A pre-trial hearing was held in March and investigations also target several other officers and officials of the ships owner, Costa Cruises a unit of the world's largest cruise operator Carnival Corp.
(Reporting By James Mackenzie; Editing by Andrew Heavens)
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