| GROSSETO, Italy
GROSSETO, Italy Feb 23 The captain of the
Costa Concordia, the liner which capsized off the coast of Italy
last month killing at least 25 people, made a series of errors
that were compounded by failures onshore by the ship's
operators, according to prosecution documents.
Prosecutors accuse captain Francesco Schettino of causing
the accident by bringing the giant vessel too close to shore
where it struck a rock that tore a large gash in the hull,
causing water to flood into the engine rooms.
He is under formal investigation in the case, accused of
multiple manslaughter and abandoning ship before the evacuation
of more than 4,200 passengers and crew was complete.
On Thursday, prosecutors added two new counts to the charge
sheet, accusing Schettino of abandoning incapacitated passengers
and failing to inform maritime authorities. Officials confirmed
that tests showed he was not on drugs at the time of the
First officer Ciro Ambrosio and seven other ship's officers
and executives of the operator Costa Cruises are also under
They include the vice president of Costa Cruises, Manfred
Ursprunger and Roberto Ferrarini, head of the company's crisis
unit, with whom Schettino was in contact during the evacuation.
Pretrial hearings, including an investigation of the ship's
"black box" recorders, are due to open on March 3.
The Costa Concordia foundered and capsized metres from the
shore off the Tuscan island of Giglio on Jan. 13. At least 25
people died in the accident and a further seven are unaccounted
Eight bodies, including that of a five year-old girl, were
found by divers on Wednesday on the submerged deck of the liner,
which lies on its side in some 20 metres of water.
"CONFUSION AND DISTRACTION"
Schettino is blamed for bringing the ship near to the rocky
shore in order to perform a display manoeuvre known as a
"salute", but prosecutors have also pointed to wider failures in
the management of the accident.
In documents filed on Wednesday notifying Schettino of the
impending investigation, prosecutors say Schettino slowed the
ship down while he was having dinner on the night of the
accident, then sped up to 16 knots to make up time, despite
being in shallow water.
They also say his nautical charts were not appropriate and
not detailed enough to reveal obstacles including the rock on
which the fatal impact occurred.
The report also points to the large number of people in the
bridge area at the time of the accident, including Domnica
Cermotan, a friend of Schettino's. They say this "generated
confusion and distraction for the captain".
It says he failed to perform appropriate manoeuvres to avoid
the collision, did not activate procedures to seal the ship, and
did not take charge of the crew during the operation. He also
took too much time to sound the general alarm and order the
evacuation of the ship.
The prosecutors also blame Costa's crisis unit of being
"culpably unaware of the real situation on board the ship" and
of falling to properly verify the information provided to it by
The unit limited itself to "bureaucratic aspects...and to
the future prospects of repairing the ship," the report said.
As well as the official investigation, Costa and its parent
company Carnival Corp, the world's largest cruise
operator, face a wave of civil suits from the victims' families
and from passengers and crewmembers aboard the ship.