Italian shipwreck a ‘workplace accident’, says lawyer

Rome, April 16 (IANS/AKI) The sinking of a cruise ship off the Italian coast, that led to the loss of 32 lives, was a “workplace accident” and was “manipulated in a terrible way against a man who was doing his job”, a lawyer for the ship’s captain has said.

The Costa Concordia ship sank off the Tuscan coast in January 2012.

“It was a workplace accident,” said Francesco Pepe, lawyer for the captain Francesco Schettino.

He said the Jan 13, 2012 shipwreck had been “manipulated in a terrible way against a man who was doing his job”.

Pepe made the remarks in the Tuscan town of Grosseto, where a closed-door hearing took place in a converted theatre to accommodate all the civil parties in the case.

Schettino did not comment as he arrived at the hearing.

Prosecutors want Schettino to stand trial for manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning the ship before all the 4,200 passengers and crew had been evacuated.

The prosecutors want four other crew and a Costa manager on land to face criminal charges for botching the emergency.

Schettino ordered the ship to sail off course, to bring it closer to the island of Giglio as a favour to friends. But it hit rocks off the island, leaving a 230-foot gash in the hull and causing the liner to capsize.

By the time Schettino ordered the crew to evacuate the ship to be evacuated, it was listing so far to one side that many lifeboats could not be lowered, and surviving passengers have told of harrowing scenes.

Schettino has portrayed himself as a hero, saying he saved lives by bringing the ship closer to port and that the reef was not on his charts.

His defence claims he has been made a scapegoat over the disaster.

“It’s convenient for Costa Crociere to land all the blame on a man who until the accident was considered one of its best captains,” said Pepe.

Costa, the Concordia’s owner has accepted limited responsibility for the tragedy and last week a judge fined the company a million euros in administrative sanctions in a plea bargain.

Lawyers representing hundreds of victims were on hand at Monday’s hearing to make the case for compensation from Costa Crociere, a division of Miami-based Carnival.

–IANS/AKI

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