28 Feb 2014

Costa captain allowed to revisit wreck

10:45 am on 28 February 2014

The captain of the Costa Concordia cruise ship, Francesco Schettino, has returned to the wreck.

It will be his first time back on the ship since it hit a reef near the island of Giglio in January 2012 and capsized, killing 32 people.

The Costa Concordia captain is surrounded by media as he arrives back at Giglio Island.

The Costa Concordia captain is surrounded by media as he arrives back at Giglio Island. Photo: AFP

The 290m-long vessel was righted in September 2013 in one of the largest, most complex salvage operations ever, but remains stranded.

The visit is part of an investigation at Captain Schettino's trial, where he is accused of manslaughter and abandoning ship before all 4,229 people on board had been evacuated. He denies the charges.

If found guilty he could face up to 20 years in prison.

Capt Schettino arrived back on Giglio, off the Tuscany coast, on Tuesday, and was reported to have wept when he first saw the stranded ship. He was taken to it on board a small boat.

He was being allowed on to the ship "as a defendant, not a consultant", said Judge Giovanni Puliatti.

Denies abandonment

He has already accepted some degree of responsibility, asking for forgiveness in a television interview last year as he talked of those who died.

But he denies abandoning the ship after it hit a reef near the island.

He maintains he managed to steer the stricken vessel closer to shore so it did not sink in deep water where hundreds might have drowned.

An Italian court convicted five others of manslaughter in July 2013.

They had all successfully entered plea bargains, whereas Mr Schettino's request for a plea bargain was denied by the prosecution.

The complex operation to salvage the Costa Concordia took 18 hours and followed months of stabilisation and preparation work by a team of 500 engineers and divers.

Ports in Italy, Britain, France, Turkey and China are now bidding for the lucrative contract to dismantle it.