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Costa Concordia captain says others are to blame for ship crash which killed 32

The prosecution is simultaneously appealing last year’s sentence, maintaining that Schettino should have been given 26 years.

Image: AP/Press Association Images

DISGRACED SKIPPER FRANCESCO Schettino today began his battle to avoid prison for the 2012 cruise ship disaster off Italy in which 32 people died, his lawyers arguing that others should shoulder the blame.

Schettino was sentenced in February 2015 to 16 years and one month in jail after a judge ruled his recklessness caused the accident that ensued after the giant Costa Concordia struck underwater rocks off the Tuscan island of Giglio.

The 55-year-old career seaman, who has not yet begun his sentence, says he has been made the solitary scapegoat for the disaster and will seek to overturn his manslaughter conviction in an appeal which opened today and will run through May at least.

The prosecution is simultaneously appealing last year’s sentence, maintaining that Schettino should have been given 26 years.

“We believe there are serious responsibilities not ascribable to Schettino and we hope to be able to show that,” lawyer Saverio Senese told journalists outside the court in the Tuscan city.

“The investigation must be deepened. We believe certain probes into technical evidence have been omitted or gave unsatisfactory results (at the first trial). We need to look more deeply… to find what really caused the accident.”

‘Others also to blame’

Italy Shipwreck Trial Francesco Schettino Source: Gregorio Borgia

During his first, 19-month, trial, Schettino was accused of showing off when he steered the ship too close to the island and of being distracted because he was entertaining a nightclub dancer.

He was convicted of multiple manslaughter, causing a maritime accident and of leaving his boat before all passengers and crew had been evacuated, in breach of centuries-old sailors’ code.

He was dubbed “Captain Coward” by the international media while prosecutors branded him “an idiot”.

Schettino was given 10 years for manslaughter, five for causing a disaster that led to the biggest salvage operation in maritime history, and one for abandoning ship before all the passengers and crew had been evacuated.

His lawyers insist the accident and its deadly impact had been primarily due to a failure of organisation for which Costa Crociere, its Indonesian helmsman and the Italian coastguard should share the blame.

“We cannot say the blame lies with others. It also lies with others, but that does not clear Schettino,” prosecutor Alessandro Leopizzi told the court.

But lawyers for survivors insisted the ship’s owner, Costa Crociere, had escaped lightly to date.

“Justice has begun to be served, but there is something important missing from the dock; the society behind Schettino’s acts,” lawyer Massimiliano Gabrielli said as he arrived in court.

The judges in Schettino’s first trial ruled that the company must share civil responsibility for the disaster with the disgraced skipper.

Their compensation awards, totalling just over €7 million, were limited.

© – AFP, 2016

Read: Costa Concordia captain denies trying to impress Moldovan dancer with island sail-by >

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