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Schettino returns to Concordia, gets jeered

Disgraced captain puts 'reputation on the line' at wreck site

27 February, 18:55
Schettino returns to Concordia, gets jeered (By Laura Clarke) (ANSA) - Giglio Island, February 27 - Former captain Francesco Schettino returned to the wreck of the Costa Concordia on Thursday under the gaze of a few curious islanders and amid heckling from journalists.

He found his way barred by reporters as he tried to make his way to Giglio port for a court-ordered inspection of the emergency generator and lifts on the crusie liner that hit rocks and capsized off the Tuscan island of Giglio in January 2012, killing 32, and had to call on police for assistance.

On returning to the port after the visit he exchanged cross words with journalists, denouncing what he described as their "tenacity" towards him. "You are showing a tenacity towards me that would be a good reason for irritation if aimed at one of yourselves," said Schettino.

Earlier, he accused reporters of "not understanding a f****** thing" in relation to his alleged failure to give an abandon-ship order and told them "to read up better".

In the event of an accident at sea "it is necessary to mitigate the consequences between an abandon-ship order and the panic created among the passengers and people on board," Schettino explained. Dubbed "captain coward" by the media for allegedly abandoning ship without overseeing the evacuation, the former captain is currently on trial in Grosseto in Tuscany on charges of multiple manslaughter and dereliction of duty.

He asked judges to be allowed to return to the wreck for Thursday's inspection in order to "help establish the truth" about what happened on the night of the disaster. "I am on Giglio to help establish the truth, putting my face forward, as I have always said," Schettino told reporters on the eve of the visit.

"I am here to help my consultants, who are engaged in necessary checks to understand the causes and dynamics of the failure to function of a number of pieces of equipment," he added.

It was the first time the former captain had visited the wreckage since Italy's worst postwar maritime disaster.

Thursday's visit was the second of two new inspections of the stricken cruise liner made by experts representing the prosecution, defence and plaintiffs in the associated civil action following the successful outcome of a parbuckling operation last September. Magistrates ordered the inspections after ruling that collection of new evidence was warranted because significant areas of the ship had been made accessible by the operation to turn the lurching, semi-submerged wreck upright.

Following a first inspection on January 23, lawyers acting for Schettino claimed the bridge command centre had been tampered with. "People have been working here," said lawyer Domenico Pepe.

"The scene is no longer as it was, there's been a complete modification of the state of things", he added.

His complaints led prosecutors to open a separate probe into possible tampering of the bridge.

And on Tuesday they announced that the Concordia's legal guardian, Franco Porcellacchia, who oversaw the parbuckling operation, and a Costa consultant, Camillo Casella, had been placed under investigation in connection with an unauthorised visit made to the wreckage on January 22.

The pair could now face charges of breaking court seals, altering the scene and legal fraud in what investigators described as a "serious incident". Prosecutors were also allegedly examining the position of a third person believed to have accompanied Porcellacchia and Casella on board.

Meanwhile Schettino continued to defend his position on Thursday.

"Some people have plea-bargained by admitting their guilt," the former captain told journalists at Giglio port. "Instead I am putting my reputation on the line by standing for trial," he continued. "Let's wait before saying that Schettino is guilty or responsible. The others have already admitted their responsibility," he said in reference to five co-defendants who secured plea bargains last year. Before the visit the mayor of Giglio, Sergio Ortelli, stressed the islanders' "indifference" to Schettino's return. However, several people were reported to have left their jobs temporarily to go to the port to get a look.

And one man is reported to have shouted "go drown yourself" from among the crowd of journalists.

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