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Costa Concordia Captain - 16yr Sentence.

The Costa Concordia disaster was more than a tragedy in Italy. It was a national drama with an eccentric cast of characters – a reckless villain, his secret lover and a hard-done-by hero – that riveted an obsessed country for years.
The hulking mass of the capsized 115,000-tonne cruise ship, which for 900 days lay seemingly unmovable and partly submerged in the Mediterranean, became a metaphor for the political and economic ills of an entire nation.
On Wednesday, just as Italy’s moribund economy is beginning to show signs of recovery, a court in Grosseto, Tuscany, issued the verdict that families of the victims and survivors of the ill-fated voyage have been waiting for since the ship sank hundreds of metres from shore in January 2012, killing 32 people.
Francesco Schettino, the vessel’s captain whose brazen maritime manoeuvre caused the disaster, was found guilty of manslaughter. He now faces 16 years in jail.
In the final days of a trial, which began in July 2013 and included more than 69 hearings, attorneys for Schettino described him as a scapegoat who had been vilified but deserved to be treated like a hero. While they acknowledged the captain bore some responsibility in the accident, they insisted that his maritime instincts helped save most of the 4,000 passengers and crew on board, thanks to his decision to delay the evacuation order long enough so that the ship was close to shore before it was abandoned.
Schettino’s attorneys also pinned blame on the vessel’s helmsman – they claimed he misunderstood the captain’s orders – and the failure of the ship’s emergency generators, which prevented the watertight doors from sealing properly.
“In a crew of 1,000 people is only one responsible?” said Domenico Pepe, his attorney.
But that version of events did not withstand the scrutiny of the court.
The 3,299 passengers who boarded the Costa Concordia on 13 January in the Italian port city of Civitavecchia for their seven-day cruise around the Mediterranean had much to enjoy. There were 1,500 cabins, one of the largest fitness centres at sea, a Turkish bath and solarium, a poolside movie theatre on the main pool deck, and 13 bars, including one devoted to cognac.
The ship’s captain also had reason to feel chipper. The married commander, now 54, was accompanied by his lover, Domnica Cemortan, a classically trained dancer from Moldavia.
That night, after dining with Cemortan, Schettino invited her to the bridge of the cruise liner, where he took command of the vessel.
What Schettino did next – and the reasons he did it – would become a central issue in the case against him.
Just as the ship was making its way north-west along the coastline, Schettino called for the vessel to be steered close to Giglio as a way to “salute” the island.
Cruise ships had sailed close to Giglio before. But this time, there was a deadly miscalculation. Just 15 minutes after Schettino had given the coordinates to his helmsman, at 9:45 pm, the Costa Concordia rammed into rocks, creating a massive 50-metre gash in the ship’s hull.
Prosecutors would later argue that Schettino’s brash move was an attempt to impress his girlfriend, an allegation he has denied.
“I didn’t do it as a favour for her,” he told the court in Grosseto.
Instead, he said he did it as a favour to the ship’s head waiter, who was a native of Giglio, and to give his passengers a beautiful view of the island.
The vessel immediately started to take in water and tilt. It lost power and the engine room began to flood. But passengers on the decks above did not initially have reason to be afraid.
Even as the crew began to frantically assess the damage and start the emergency diesel generator, Schettino ordered them to tell passengers that the ship had simply suffered an electrical outage and that everything was under control. Some reassured passengers stayed in their cabins and later lost their lives. The same erroneous information was given to the harbour master at Civitavecchia.
“I did that to calm the passengers down, I feared that otherwise there would be panic,” Schettino said in his defence at trial.
Francesco Schettino, captain of the Costa Concordia, in court in Grosseto during his trial. Photograph: Max Rossi/Reuters The Costa Concordia began to drift and, investigators later explained, list as a result of water in the damaged hull. By 10.15pm, the Italian coastguard began getting reports of trouble on board directly from the passengers, but Schettino still did not react.
Inside, panic reigned. Claudia Poliani, a hairdresser from Rome who survived the disaster, would later describe the chaos in court testimony.
“From the happiness and wonder of being on a cruise, we passengers became panic stricken and fell over. It was dark and no one helped us … no one told us what to do. We found lifejackets ourselves,” she said.
Another survivor, Rosanna Abbinante, told the court she feared that she would “die like a rat”.
Ultimately, it took more than an hour for Schettino to give the order to abandon ship. By that point, the vessel was already tilted at a 30-degree angle, complicating some of the rescue effort. About 20 minutes later, even as hundreds of passengers continued to await rescue, Schettino abandoned his post and left his second in command in charge of the evacuation. Twelve minutes later, the latter also abandoned his post, with about 300 passengers still on board.
That moment in the crisis was immortalised by a recorded radio exchange between Schettino, who was in a lifeboat by then, and Gregorio de Falco, a coastguard captain who became a national hero for his emphatic order that the captain “Get back on board, for fuck’s sake”.
“You need to tell me if there are children, women or people in need of assistance,” an exasperated De Falco shouted. “Listen Schettino … you saved yourself from the sea, but … I am going to make you pay for this.”
De Falco became such a hero that, when it emerged more than a year later that he had been transferred out of operational service into a desk job, his apparent mistreatment created a new spate of soul-searching in Italy. Some suggested the country did not know how to reward people who showed good character.
The salvage of the Costa Concordia was the most expensive such operation in history, with an estimated cost of $1.2bn. It was also risky. The operation, led by a wisecracking South African named Nick Sloane, involved first moving the capsized vessel into an upright position, and then slowly shifting it into deeper water. In such an unprecedented operation, environmental contamination was a constant threat, with tonnes of rotting food, passenger belongings and other items still located on the vessel.
Ultimately, the massive ship’s final journey to Genoa took four days.
In the aftermath of the disaster, legal claims mounted against the owner of the ship, Costa Cruises. They included lawsuits by the region of Tuscany and a €189m suit by the island of Giglio, which claimed that the accident and the presence of the downed vessel hurt tourism and the local economy.
“This region is known and appreciated around the world for figures such as Leonardo, Galileo, Giotto, Michelangelo and Brunelleschi, but after the catastrophe of Concordia, it became famous for Schettino and his vulgarity,” said Enrico Rossi, the governor of Tuscany, who testified in the trial against the commander.
As the Costa Concordia made its final journey out of the port of Giglio, some survivors and families of victims looked on as a final farewell.
Martine Muller and her husband were given the cruise as a birthday gift from her children. She told the Guardian at the time how she was frantically asking everyone she knew whether they had news from her husband, while she waited at the port. Then the bodies began to arrive.
“And I said, well, my husband’s in there. And he was. He was the first person recovered,” she said.
The youngest victim of the disaster was a five-year-old girl named Dayana Arlotti, who drowned with her father after they were told there was no space in a lifeboat.
The final victim was not found until November 2014. As workers began to break apart the ship in Genoa, and they discovered the body of Russel Rebello, an Indian waiter.
The process of scrapping the ship is expected to take two years.