An official coordinating the rescue from Italy’s stricken cruise ship has told a court that the captain, accused of abandoning ship, refused twice to be taken back on board after making it safely to dry land.
Captain Francesco Schettino, who is on trial for multiple manslaughter, insists that he slipped off the Costa Concordia as it rolled over after hitting rocks off the island of Giglio, and fell onto a lifeboat, which carried him ashore.
In a widely-quoted phone call a coast guard official is heard upbraiding Schettino and ordering him to “get back on board, for f**k’s sake” – an order the former captain refused point blank to follow.
“When I got to the rock where Schettino was, I told him I would take him back to Giglio port so he could get on a dinghy and be taken back to the Concordia, and get back on board if need be,” Carlo Galli, the head of the traffic police coordinating the rescue, told the court on Monday.
Thirty-two people were killed in the disaster, which happened when passengers were sitting down to dinner.
Helicopters desperately ferrying survivors to safety flew over Schettino as he sat huddled on an outcrop near the shore, Galli said.
“He told me he had to stay, to supervise his ship. When I repeated the invitation to take him back, another officer from the ship said it was a good idea to try and get back on board. Schettino said no again,” he said.
Schettino has claimed he begged the lifeboat he found himself on to turn around and take him back to the ship, but his request was refused.
He has also said the ship’s owner Costa Crociere, Europe’s biggest cruise operator, told him by telephone not to return to the stricken liner.
The Concordia hit rocks off the island of Giglio on the night of January 14, 2012, with 4229 people from 70 countries on board.
Schettino has admitted to performing a risky “salute” manoeuvre near Giglio island and is accused of delaying the evacuation process after the impact.