19 Feb 2012

Italy shipwreck captain tests negative for drugs

1:13 pm on 19 February 2012

Lawyers for the captain of the cruise liner that ran aground off the Italian coast last month says he has tested negative for drug and alcohol abuse.

The tests were carried out on Francesco Schettino when he was arrested on charges of multiple manslaughter after steering the 114,000 tonne Costa Concordia onto rocks off the island of Giglio on 13 January, in a disaster that killed at least 17 people.

The results showed Mr Schettino had consumed neither alcohol nor drugs, according to details of the tests released by consumers' association Codacons, which has presented a class action suit against the ship's owners.

Codacons, whose own experts were present at the tests, said the results were unreliable as they had also failed to show signs of tranquilizers that Mr Schettino himself had said he was taking before the accident.

The tests also showed unexplained traces of cocaine on Mr Schettino's hair. However they did not find any signs of breakdown products of cocaine inside the hair follicles - products that would usually show up inside the hair of someone who had actually used cocaine.

Mr Schettino's lawyer, Bruno Leporatti, criticised Codacons for commenting on tests which had still not been made public, but said the scientific outcome was indisputable.

"The results of the test were negative, both regarding drug abuse and alcohol abuse," he said.

The scientist in charge of the tests, Marcello Chiarotti, told Italian news agency ANSA that the tests had given clear and certain results which he would hand to the prosecutors.

Asked about the traces of cocaine, he said there had been "a marginal problem which did not remotely undermine the results of the analysis".