Concordia captain tried to blame wreck on electrical blackout, court told

ROME, April 14 Mon Apr 14, 2014 11:27am EDT

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ROME, April 14 (Reuters) - The captain of the Costa Concordia tried to persuade the crisis coordinator of the cruise line to pretend an electrical blackout had caused the shipwreck, a court was told on Monday.

The luxury liner hit rocks as it sailed close to the island of Giglio in January 2012, killing 32 people and setting off a chaotic evacuation of crew and passengers, some of who jumped into the sea and swam ashore.

"He suggested we say an (electrical) blackout had caused the collision. I said absolutely not," Roberto Ferrarini, the cruise company's crisis coordinator, told the court where Schettino is fighting charges of manslaughter and causing a shipwreck.

Schettino's lawyer, Domenico Pepe, said Ferrarini's crisis- response group was to blame and had abandoned his client. The lawyer said much of the trouble was caused by a faulty emergency power system. Ferrarini was sentenced last July to two years and 10 months after pleading guilty to manslaughter.

The court heard a recorded conversation between while the ship was sinking.

"I have made a mess and practically the whole ship is flooding," Schettino is heard telling Ferrarini.

"What should I say to the media? .... To the port authorities I have said that we had an (inaudible), we have had a blackout."

The captain is accused of abandoning ship before all passengers and crew were rescued. A coastguard's angry order to him, "Get back on board, damn it!", became a catch phrase in Italy that was printed on t-shirts.

His lawyers say Schettino was thrown overboard because of the angle of the leaning ship. It still lies rusting and is due to be towed away in June to be broken up for scrap.

Costa Cruises, a unit of Carnival Corp, avoided a criminal trial by agreeing to pay 1 million euro ($1.31 million) fine, but victims are pursuing damages in a civil case. (Reporting by Eleanor Biles, Writing by Naomi O'Leary; Editing by Larry King)

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