Editor's note: Francesco Schettino, who was sentenced today, was at the helm of the Costa Concordia cruise ship with it capsized off Italy in 2012. He was charged with multiple counts of manslaughter and abandoning ship in the disaster that claimed the lives of 32 people, The Telegraph reports. - Stephanie
The Italian cruise ship Costa Concordiacapsized and sank after striking an underwater rock obstruction off Isola del Giglio, Tuscany, on 13 January 2012, with the loss of 32 lives.
The ship, carrying 4,252 people, was on the first leg of a cruise around the Mediterranean Sea, starting from Civitavecchia in Lazio, Italy, when she deviated from her planned route at the Isola del Giglio, coming closer to that island, and struck a rock formation on the sea floor.
The impact could be heard by passengers on board and caused a temporary power blackout when water flooded the engine room. The captain, Francesco Schettino, ordered evacuation after an hour of drifting, during which the ship had started to list. Meanwhile, the harbour authorities were alerted by worried passengers, and vessels were sent to the rescue. During a six-hour evacuation, most passengers were brought ashore. The search for missing people continued for several months, with all but two being accounted for. The ship was righted on 17 September 2013, and on 24 October 2013 it was reported that DNA analysis of one body found earlier in the same month confirmed it was the body of missing Italian passenger Maria Grazia Trecarichi.
Costa Concordia, operated by Costa Crociere (Costa Cruises), is one of the largest ships ever to be abandoned, dominating international media in the days after the disaster. Captain Schettino was arrested on preliminary charges of manslaughter in connection with causing a shipwreck, failing to assist 300 passengers, and failing to be the last to leave the wreck. He was later charged with failing to describe to maritime authorities the scope of the disaster and with abandoning incapacitated passengers. Costa Cruises offered compensation to passengers (to a limit of €11,000 a person) to pay for all damages, including the value of the cruise. One-third of the passengers took this offer. The company also at first offered to pay Captain Schettino's legal costs, but later changed its position.
There were immediate fears of an ecological disaster, because the partially submerged wreck was in danger of slipping into much deeper water, with a risk of oil pollution that could have devastated the popular tourist zone. In the end, no significant fuel leak occurred, and all the fuel was extracted safely from the ship by 24 March 2012. Costa Concordia was officially declared a "constructive total loss" by the insurance company, and her salvage was "one of the biggest maritime salvage operations". On 16 September 2013, the parbuckle salvage of the ship began. The operation started late that day due to bad weather, and by the early hours of 17 September 2013 the wreck was set upright on its underwater cradle.
In July 2014, the ship was refloated by large caissons (metal tanks) attached to its sides and was towed 320 kilometres (200 miles) to its home port of Genoa. There the ship will be dismantled and materials from the ship will be recycled.
On 11 February 2015, after a trial of more than eighteen months, Captain Schettino was found guilty of manslaughter of 32 passengers and sentenced to 16 years in prison. Prosecutors had asked for a 26-year sentence, but the court gave Schettino ten years for multiple manslaughter, five years for causing the shipwreck, one year for abandoning the passengers, and one month for providing false information to port authorities. In 2016, his appeal was rejected and the sentence upheld. A final appeal is currently pending. He would remain free until the end of the process.
No charges were brought against the British/American owners of the Italian Costa Cruises' ship, despite the poor safety culture promulgated by them on board Costa Concordia.