GIGLIO ISLAND, Italy (AP) — The disgraced former captain of a luxury cruise liner that capsized off an Italian island went back on board Thursday for the first time since the 2012 shipwreck that killed 32 people.
The last time Francesco Schettino was on the Costa Concordia he was about to board a lifeboat while hundreds of passengers and crew were still trying to figure out their own escape routes after the liner rammed a reef close to Giglio Island on Jan. 13, 2012, rapidly took on water and listed badly.
Schettino is on trial on charges of manslaughter, causing the shipwreck by steering too close to the island, and then abandoning ship before everyone else had been safely evacuated. He was allowed to board the ship to help court-appointed experts inspect generators.
The hulk was set upright in a daring engineering feat last year.
Many who perished drowned either after they jumped into the sea after lifeboats could no longer be launched because of the ship's tilt, or were caught in the rush of seawater that swamped elevator shafts and much of the rest of the Concordia.
Schettino, the sole defendant, claims that faulty emergency generators and a poorly trained crew contributed to tragedy. The inspection was requested by the defense and lawyers for consumer groups, which also contend that Costa Crociere Spa, the cruise company, shares some blame.
"I gave indications that will help the experts decide how to divvy up the responsibility" for the tragedy, Schettino told reporters after the inspection.
Prosecutors disagree. "None of the 32 Costa Concordia died because the emergency diesel generators didn't work the night of the shipwreck," Chief Prosecutor Francesco Verusio was quoted by the Italian news agency ANSA as saying in Grosseto, the Tuscan town where the trial is being held.
Five other Costa Crociere employees who were indicted in the case were allowed to enter plea bargains and none is serving prison time.