Francesco Schettino

Last updated

Francesco Schettino
Born (1960-11-14) 14 November 1960 (age 60)
OccupationFormer ship captain
Employer Costa Cruises (2002–2012)
Known forCaptain of Costa Concordia
Criminal statusIncarcerated
Spouse(s)Fabiola Russo
Criminal chargeMultiple manslaughter
Penalty16 years in prison

Francesco Schettino (Italian pronunciation:  [franˈtʃesko sketˈtiːno] ; born 14 November 1960) [1] is an Italian former sea captain who commanded the cruise ship Costa Concordia when it struck an underwater rock and capsized with the deaths of 32 passengers and crew off the Italian island of Giglio on 13 January 2012. [2] [3] In 2015, he was sentenced to sixteen years in prison for his role in the incident. [4]

Contents

Early life and education

Francesco Schettino was born into a seafaring family of Meta, Campania. [5] He attended the nautical institute Nino Bixio in Piano di Sorrento, [3] then worked for the ferry company Tirrenia.

Career

In 2002, aged 41, Schettino was hired by Costa Crociere, a subsidiary of Carnival Corporation. Starting as an official in charge of security, he moved up to become second-in-command. [3] In 2006, Schettino was promoted to captain and given command of the newly launched Costa Concordia . [3] In 2010, as captain of the Costa Atlantica , he entered the port of Warnemünde, Germany, at too high a speed, allegedly causing damage to the AIDAblu , also a Carnival Corporation ship, [6] but later AIDA Cruises had officially disconfirmed those accident reports. [7] In 2014, two years after the Costa Concordia disaster, he was invited to speak at a university – as a panic victim and a demonstration object.

Costa Concordia disaster

Schettino was the captain in charge of the Costa Concordia on 13 January 2012, when the ship attempted a sail-by salute past Giglio, a maneuver he had performed before. The ship struck an underwater rock off the island, partially capsized and listed on its starboard side, resulting in the deaths of 32 people. [8] Schettino accepted some degree of responsibility and asked for forgiveness when he talked about those who had died. [3] In 2012, Schettino's lawyer, Bruno Leporatti, defended his action and indicated that his maneuver after the collision was "brilliant" and saved lives. [9] In December 2014, another one of Schettino's lawyers, Domenico Pepe, just prior to Schettino's testimony, declared that his client wanted to set the record straight and "defend his honor".[ citation needed ]

Schettino indicated prior to trial that the underwater rocks that the ship hit were uncharted, the helmsman did not speak English or Italian, and that the ship’s generators malfunctioned, impeding the rescue effort. Regarding his dry and early departure of the vessel, Schettino had explained that he slipped off the ship when it turned over and fell into a lifeboat. [10] A transcript of a recorded conversation between Schettino and the on-duty Italian Coast Guard, Gregorio de Falco, was broadcast across news bulletins. It details a very angry De Falco repeatedly ordering Schettino to leave the lifeboat and return to the stricken Costa Concordia. De Falco clearly does not believe Schettino's explanation of how he 'fell' into the lifeboat, or his excuse for not returning to his vessel because it was "too dark" and the lifeboat had "stopped moving". At one point, De Falco was so angered at Schettino's excuses that he told Schettino, "Vada a bordo, cazzo!", translated as "Get the fuck on board!", "Get on board, for fuck's sake!", or "Get on board, dammit!". Schettino did not do so.[ citation needed ]

Treatment in media

Schettino was vilified in extensive media coverage, that dubbed him "Captain Coward" and "Captain Calamity". [11] [12] Others in the press noted that Schettino was a daredevil and prone to insubordination. [13] He was even described as "Italy's most hated man" by the tabloid press. [14] [15] At the end of his trial at Grosseto, Schettino said that he spent three years "in a media meat grinder." [16] However, there had also been speculation that Schettino was a handy fall guy for Costa Cruises, which had disassociated itself from him and must have been aware of the practice of a sail-by salute, even requesting it. [17]

Costa had communication with Schettino during the interval between the collision with the rock and the evacuation order; some claim this may have led to a delay in the rescue effort. [18] [17] However, Schettino did not contact his employers during the first 15 minutes after the collision. Thus, any such conversation(s) did not distract him from sending a mayday or ordering an evacuation. He reportedly lied to the coast guard to keep rescuers away, and ordered passengers away from "muster stations" delaying evacuation. [19]

After the accident, Schettino was placed in temporary custody by the prosecutor of Grosseto and released for house arrest on 17 January 2012. [20] On 5 July 2012, Schettino was released from house arrest but mandated to reside in Meta di Sorrento. [21] Prior to Schettino's trial, Pier Luigi Foschi, at that time chairman of Costa, put blame on the captain as being responsible for deviating from the course and sailing close to Giglio. [3] Costa terminated Schettino's employment in 2012. [22] The company declined to pay for his legal defense although it first supported him; instead, after a plea bargain with the prosecution, it became a co-plaintiff in the trial against Schettino. [23]

Schettino's trial was separated from a trial against five other Costa employees, namely Roberto Ferrarini (the company's crisis director, who was found guilty of minimizing the extent of the disaster and delaying an adequate response), cabin service director Manrico Giampedroni, first officer Ciro Ambrosio, helmsman Jacob Rusli Bin, and third officer Silvia Coronica. All pleaded guilty in a plea bargaining plan and received jail sentences ranging from eighteen months to two years and ten months. Reuters cited judicial sources as saying none of these individuals were likely to go to jail as sentences less than two years for non-violent offences are routinely suspended in Italy, and longer sentences may be appealed or replaced by community service. [24] Criminal investigations into any role Costa may have had in the disaster were closed after the company agreed to pay a fine of 1 million. [23] The company may still be liable for civil damages. [16]

Court of Grosseto trial

On 23 February 2013, the office of the prosecution at Grosseto announced that it had initiated legal proceedings against Schettino. He was accused of multiple counts of manslaughter, causing a maritime accident, abandoning ship with passengers still on board, and lack of cooperation with rescue operations. [25] The trial took place at Grosseto's "Teatro Moderno", which was adapted into a courtroom to handle lawyers of about 250 co-plaintiffs and about 400 scheduled witnesses. [23]

While the other parties involved could plea bargain, Schettino's request to strike a plea bargain himself [23] was denied. By the time he had made his first appearance on 2 December 2014, he was left as the sole person to be accused of manslaughter. [26] "Schettino is (now) the only defendant, but he is not the only one responsible", opined Daniele Bocciolini, lawyer for some survivors. "He's not responsible for the lifeboats that couldn't be launched nor for the (failing) emergency generators". [27]

In his defense, Schettino explained that the sail-by salute was intended to pay homage to other mariners and, for business reasons, to present passengers a nice view. He denied that he did this to impress a Moldovan dancer whom he had brought to the bridge. She had boarded as a non-paying passenger and later admitted the two were having an affair. [28] Schettino maintained his actions had saved the lives of many after the ship impacted the rock and claimed some of his crew misunderstood and botched his orders. [15] Further, he blamed defective generators and the flooding of compartments for aggravating the situation. [29] His lawyer indicated that these malfunctions were responsible for the fatalities. [26]

At the end of the proceeding, the public prosecutor Magistrate Maria Navarro asked for a jail sentence of 26 years and three months. [29] Confirming the charges, she parsed jail times as follows: fourteen years for multiple manslaughter, nine years for causing a shipwreck, three years for abandoning the vessel and three months for failing to contact the authorities when the accident happened. [25] Navarro accused Schettino of lying during the trial as well as in prior public interviews. [29] [30] Prosecutor Stefano Pizza stated, "The captain’s duty to be the last person off the ship is not just an obligation dictated by ancient maritime rules, it is also a legal obligation intended to limit the damage to those on the ship." [30] Schettino's lawyers rebutted the charges and indicated that the disaster was a collective failure for which he should not be made the scapegoat. [16]

On 11 February 2015, after a 19-month trial, Judge Giovanni Puliatti read the verdict, sentencing Schettino to sixteen years in prison and five years of interdiction from navigating. [31] [32] The sixteen-year verdict is composed of ten years for manslaughter, five years for causing the shipwreck, and one year for abandoning his passengers, to be served consecutively. [16]

Response to the verdict

Although Costa's lawyer called the verdict "balanced", [33] others criticized it. Survivors groups saw it as too lenient. [34] [35] On the other hand, it was also argued that Schettino, while guilty, had been made a scapegoat. [35] According to this view, the disaster was a complex failure, involving not only negligence on part of the captain, but also inadequate safety procedures, poor evacuation procedures, communication failures, and technical defects (such as faulty watertight doors). [35] On 31 May 2016, an Italian appeals court upheld Schettino's prison sentence. [8] Schettino further appealed to Italy's Supreme Court of Cassation, [36] which upheld the original sentence on 12 May 2017. On hearing the verdict of the second appeal, he turned himself in to Rome's Rebibbia prison to begin his sentence. [37] [38]

Personal life

Present with him on the bridge during the collision was Moldovan translator Domnica Cemortan, who has admitted she had been having an extramarital affair with Schettino. [39] Before starting his prison sentence, Schettino lived in Meta in the Province of Naples. He is married to Fabiola Russo, and has one daughter.

See also

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