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Concordia 'hero' De Falco ups heat on Schettino

Sinking ship's captain 'refused to return to his duties'

09 December, 18:40
Concordia 'hero' De Falco ups heat on Schettino (By Shelly Kittleson) (ANSA) - Grosseto, December 9 - Coast Guard Commander Gregorio De Falco testified Monday that he tried unsuccessfully to convince the captain of the Costa Concordia to return to his duties and help passengers on the sinking cruise ship. De Falco spoke at the criminal trial of Francesco Schettino, charged with multiple counts of manslaughter in the shipwreck in January 2012 that killed 32 people as well and injuring many of the more than 3,000 passengers on the cruise ship.

The Coast Guard commander added that the captain had admitted to serious problems only after being repeatedly contacted from land. "At 10:38 p.m. the ship issued distress signals," testified De Falco.

That was almost one hour after the crash at 9:45 p.m.

"I called the ship because the situation seemed more worrisome than what they had claimed," he continued.

"It was only after this that they admitted there was a leak and not only a black-out. We then sent out boats and helicopters," as part of a rescue operation, continued De Falco.

"I urged Captain Schettino to get back on the ship but did not succeed," De Falco said, as he recalled his phone conversation with the captain, who he thought did not understand how serious the situation was. De Falco is well known for ordering Schettino to "get back on board, dammit" during the rescue operations. In court, the captain lowered his gaze as a tape-recording played the heated phone conversation between him and the port authority chief the night of the wreck. Schettino then waved a sheet of paper about and spoke to his defense team as De Falco told his version of the night's events on the witness stand.

Schettino has repeatedly insisted on his innocence, maintaining he actually prevented a worse disaster than what occurred.

He is suing to get his job back after being dismissed by Costa Cruises.

The disaster occurred when an allegedly rash maneuver by Schettino resulted in the Concordia hitting a rock reef as the ship sailed close to Giglio Island to 'salute' local people.