Captain of capsized ship to attend Italian hearing for first time
GIGLIO, Italy (Reuters) - The captain of the stricken Costa Concordia cruise ship will attend pre-trial hearings this week where experts will present analysis of the events that led to the vessel hitting a rock off the Italian coast in January and the death of 30 people.
The luxury cruise liner has been sitting half-submerged on the sea floor near the Tuscan island of Giglio since the accident 10 months ago. At least 30 people died during a chaotic nighttime evacuation of 4,200 passengers and crew, and another two bodies have still not been recovered.
At least three days of hearings, which consider evidence before a full trial, will be held this week in a theatre in the city of Grosseto, where captain Francesco Schettino faces charges of multiple manslaughter and abandoning ship.
Eight other officers and executives of Costa Cruises, the ship's owner, also are being investigated for their roles in the accident involving the 114,500-tonne ship.
Schettino has publicly pledged to attend the hearings, which will include the presentation of data taken from the ship's "black box" and an analysis of the accident by a panel of experts.
"It's my right to participate," Schettino said last week. He said he wants to make sure the consultants hired by his defense interpret the "black box" data correctly.
"It's right that he should appear and give correct information and tell exactly what happened," said Mariella Tozzi, a local resident on Giglio island. "Because we still don't know what really happened."
The Naples-born captain has always acknowledged making mistakes once it became clear that the Costa Concordia was in trouble, but has said he was not the only one who should be blamed for the tragedy.
Schettino did not attend the first hearings, which were held in March. The court then delayed the hearings by seven months till this week to give experts time to collect and analyze the evidence.
Schettino, who has been held up to ridicule in Italy and abroad since the January 13 disaster, said earlier this week he was disputing his dismissal from Costa Cruises, a unit of Carnival Corp.
The angry order to "Get back on board, damn it!" delivered by a coast guard officer to Schettino over the telephone after he had abandoned his ship was printed on T-shirts in Italy.
(Reporting by Cristiano Corvino in Giglio; Writing by Steve Scherer; Editing by Jon Hemming)
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