* Lawyer says climate around hearing could be dangerous
* Schettino says others are responsible too
* Hundreds of journalists arrive for hearing
By Hanna Rantala
GROSSETO, Italy, March 2 The captain of a
giant cruise liner which capsized off Italy, killing at least 25
people, could be in danger if he attends a pre-trial hearing on
Saturday into the disaster, his lawyer said.
Prosecutors have accused captain Francesco Schettino of
causing the accident by bringing the multi-storey Costa
Concordia too close to the shore of the Mediterranean island of
Giglio in January, where it was torn open by rocks.
He has already been held up to condemnation and ridicule
around the world.
Seven people are unaccounted for and divers are still
looking for bodies in the capsized and partly submerged vessel.
A hearing will be held in a theatre in the Tuscan town of
Grosseto on Saturday, when judges will question experts about
the wrecking of the 114,500 tonne liner.
Lawyer Bruno Leporatti told Reuters Television in Grosseto
that the captain "is a man who has feelings, who is pained over
what happened. He feels pain for the victims, naturally and is
stunned by all that is going on."
Schettino, who spent three decades at sea, is under house
arrest in his home in Meta di Sorrento, near Naples.
"Captain Schettino will not attend the pre-trial hearing
because it is not of use or any help if he embarks on a return
trip of 850 km from where he is held under house arrest, just to
be present, which would be unnecessary and perhaps with this
climate that has been created around him, also a little
dangerous for him," Leporatti said in the interview this week.
Schettino is accused of a string of charges including
multiple manslaughter and abandoning ship before the evacuation
of more than 4,200 passengers and crew.
First officer Ciro Ambrosio and seven other ships' officers
and executives of the ship's owners, Costa Cruises, are also
SECOND COSTA LINER IN TROUBLE
The hearing will come after 627 passengers disembarked in
the Seychelles on Thursday from another Costa liner, the much
smaller Costa Allegra, which had to be towed for three days by a
French fishing boat in the Indian Ocean after a fire knocked out
Leporatti said the Grosseto hearing starting on Saturday,
whose duration is unclear, would confirm what Schettino had said
about the disaster from the start.
"The new results from the investigations, the new visual
evidence, show a completely different reality from what was
originally claimed ... immediately after the incident."
"We have seen a completely different take on things from
what everyone has been trying to make us believe," he said.
Leporatti said Schettino, who is blamed for bringing the
Costa Concordia to within a stone's throw of shore in a display
manoeuvre known as a "salute" to islanders, had always said he
should not be the only one blamed for the tragedy.
He said investigations were showing that "there are also
others, whose actions are currently being evaluated by the
investigators and hopefully there will be even more".
Among those under investigation are the vice president of
Costa, Manfred Ursprunger, and the head of its crisis unit,
Roberto Ferrarini, with whom Schettino was in contact during the
The company, a unit of the world's largest cruise operator,
Carnival Corp , has blamed Schettino for the
Many townspeople in Meta di Sorrento have been supportive of
Schettino since his arrest, in contrast to media treatment
elsewhere in Italy and abroad.
"Let's wait to hear what the trial will say before we
condemn him. This man has been executed before the trial has
even started and you (the press) have executed him," said
resident Rosa Tito on Friday.
Another man in Meta, who asked not to be named, told
Reuters: "I know from people who have known him and who have
sailed with him that he has always been an excellent officer ...
I don't know why he made the choices he did. I really don't know
what may have gone through his head."
Hundreds of Italian and foreign journalists, together with
television satellite trucks, are gathering in Grosseto, which is
the centre of the investigation into the shipwreck.
Judges will be ordering tests on the black box recorders
from the ship when the hearing opens on Saturday. Local media
said around 70 lawyers and their teams, representing survivors
and relatives of victims, among others, were expected to attend
The theatre where it is being held can hold more than 1,000
people but the hearings will not be open to the public or