GROSSETO, Italy (AP) -- The Italian court trying the captain of the Costa Concordia heard grim details Wednesday about how the 32 victims of the shipwreck drowned, some after diving or falling into the sea from the capsized cruise liner when lifeboats were no longer accessible.
A court official read out the names of the deceased passengers
and crew members, and described how each one died, quoting verbatim from
the indictment of the Concordia's captain, Francesco Schettino. The
veteran Italian mariner is the sole defendant in the trial, which is
being held in a theater in the Tuscan town of Grosseto.
Schettino is charged with manslaughter, causing the January 2012
shipwreck off the Tuscan island of Giglio, and abandoning ship with
"hundreds of passengers and crew still aboard, unable to care for
themselves or in need of coordination as the ship's tilt increased," the
The Concordia, on a week-long Mediterranean cruise, speared a
jagged granite reef when, prosecutors allege, Schettino steered the ship
too close to Giglio's rocky shores as a favor to a crewman whose
relatives live on the island.
The reef sliced a 70-meter-long (230-foot) gash in the hull.
Seawater rushed in, causing the ship to rapidly lean to one side until
it capsized, then drifted to a rocky stretch of seabed just outside the
island's tiny port.
Survivors have described an evacuation that was so confused and
delayed that by the time it got under way lifeboats on one side of the
Concordia could no longer be launched because the vessel was already
The reading of the list of the victims began with the death of a
Frenchman, Francis Servel, who "not having found a place on the
lifeboat, threw himself into the sea without a life vest." He was
"sucked toward the bottom of the whirlpool produced by the final
flipping over on the right side of the ship, and then died due to
Shortly after the tragedy, survivors recounted how Servel had given his wife his life vest because she didn't know how to swim.
The bodies of victims No. 31 and 32 were never found, but after a
long, futile search of the ship's interior and the nearby waters, they
were declared dead.
One of them was a middle-aged Italian passenger, Maria Grazia
Trecarichi, who, with no place on a lifeboat, and "while waiting to be
rescued" while wearing a life vest, "slid off into the sea because of
the progressive tilt of the boat" and presumably drowned, the court
official said, reading from the indictment.
Victim No. 32 was a Filipino waiter, Russel Terence Rebello. The
court heard how the crewman "remained on the ship to carry out the
lowering of the last lifeboats" and either fell or dove into the sea
because of the Concordia's dramatic tilt and was presumed to have
Other victims drowned aboard, as violently swirling water rose up inside the ship.
The court heard how some passengers were "sucked into a vortex"
of water rushing into the ship when the Concordia capsized. This
happened after the crew told them to go to the other side of the ship
where lifeboats were being launched, and the passengers ended up trying
to walk down a tilting corridor.
Wednesday was the first full one-day hearing in the trial, which
is expected to last into next year. Last week it was postponed by a
Earlier Wednesday, lawyers for Schettino said they were making a
last-ditch attempt to reach a plea bargain in the case, which could
result in a long prison sentence if the captain is convicted.
One of his lawyers, Donato Laino, told reporters the defense
wanted a deal that would see Schettino plead guilty in exchange for a
three-year, five-month sentence.
Schettino risks up to 20 years, if found guilty of manslaughter and the other charges.
The bid is essentially a "formality since the prosecution will tell us 'no,'" the LaPresse news agency quoted Laino as saying.
It was not immediately clear when a ruling regarding the plea
bargain might come. But prosecutor Francesco Verusio told reporters
during a recess that he has opposed it because of the "seriousness of
the conduct of the accused."
In May, a different judge in pretrial hearings rejected Schettino's first bid for a plea bargain after the prosecution said no.
But deals have been approved for the five other defendants,
including the helmsman and other ship officers who were on the bridge of
the ship with Schettino when it rammed the reef. The five included an
official of the Italian cruise company Costa Crociere SpA who was
managing the crisis on land.
A judge is expected to rule on Saturday on those defendants'
requests for lenient sentences, no longer than about two years. In
Italy, sentences are often suspended in the cases of first time
offenders that result in punishments of a just a few years or less.
That would leave Schettino, who depicts himself as an innocent scapegoat, as the only defendant risking a long sentence.
Prosecutors have alleged he deliberately guided the ship
dangerously close to the island's rocky coast. The maneuver "was a favor
that the commander, Schettino, wanted to do" for a crew member whose
family lives on Giglio "so they could watch an ultra-close passage (of
the Concordia) near the coast," Verusio told reporters outside the
Some of the 4,200 passengers and crew members who were aboard the Concordia said Schettino shouldn't be the only person tried.
"Frankly, I'm not angry with Schettino," said Gianluca
Gabrielli, a 33-year-old Roman who is a surviving passenger. "I'm angry
with the whole crew. They were smiling at the beginning, but when they
realized that there was danger, they escaped, abandoning us," Gabrielli
said outside the Grosseto theater, which is serving as a makeshift
courtroom to allow more space for the public.
Many survivors who jumped into the sea and swam to shore have
recalled their shock and amazement that Schettino was already there
while others were still on the boat.
Most of the last survivors had to be lifted to safety from the capsized wreck by helicopters.
Many survivors and families of the people killed in the disaster
have filed civil actions that could allow them to seek monetary
compensation from Schettino, if he is convicted.
On Wednesday, Judge Giovanni Puliatti allowed the Italian cruise
company Costa Crociere to do the same. In April, a judge in Tuscany
fined Costa 1 million euros ($1.3 million) for the shipwreck, the
maximum amount allowed under Italian law.
At Wednesday's trial, lawyers for Schettino and for survivors
told the judge they objected to letting Costa attach a civil action to
the criminal trial. But Puliatti sided with the company, indicating
there was no such contradiction.
Most of the seats in the theater Wednesday were empty, as it was
widely expected that the hearing would be taken up by procedural
matters, with no testimony scheduled.
Those issues include the judge's decision about which of some
150 witnesses will be called to testify and when. Testimony is unlikely to begin before September because courtrooms in Italy generally break for vacation in August.