Tags: costa concordia | captain | francesco schettino | 16 years

Francesco Schettino, Costa Concordia Captain, Sentenced to 16 Years

Image: Francesco Schettino, Costa Concordia Captain, Sentenced to 16 Years
Costa Concordia's captain Francesco Schettino on on the last day of his trial on February 11, 2015 in Grosseto. (Alberto Pizzoli/AFP/Getty Images)

By    |   Wednesday, 11 Feb 2015 02:39 PM

Francesco Schettino, the captain of the Costa Concordia luxury liner that capsized and killed more than 30 people in 2012, has been sentenced to 16 years in jail.

Schettino, who was found guilty on multiple charges of manslaughter, wasn't present when Judge Giovanni Puliatti read out the verdict Wednesday night in a Grosseto theater, The Associated Press reported.

The verdict and sentencing brought a close to a trial that has been running since July 2013.

Right before deliberation began earlier on Wednesday, Schettino told the court that his "head was sacrificed" to safeguard economic interests, then broke down in sobs.

"That's enough," he said, unable to finish his statement to the three-judge panel.

The court determined that he caused the Jan. 13, 2012, shipwreck near tiny Giglio Island and abandoned the ship while many of the 4,200 passengers and crew were still aboard.

Deliberations were conducted in an actor's dressing room — the trial was held in a Grosseto theater to accommodate as many survivors or victims' loved ones who wanted to follow proceedings. But most seats have been empty since the trial began in July 2013.

Schettino maintained he was a scapegoat.

Testimony put the spotlight on errors by other crew and equipment malfunctions after the Concordia smashed into a jagged reef when Schettino steered the ship close to the Tuscan island's shoreline while passengers were having supper in the main dining room.

The reef gashed the hull, seawater rushed in, and the Concordia listed badly, finally ending up on its side outside Giglio's port. Autopsies determined that victims drowned aboard ship or in the sea after either falling or jumping off the ship during a chaotic, delayed evacuation.

Schettino said he was "a few hours from a verdict that should have involved an entire organization and instead sees me as the only defendant."

"My head was sacrificed to serve economic interests," the 54-year-old Neapolitan seaman told the court.

Lawyers for many of the survivors and victims' families have attached civil suits to the criminal trial to press the court to order Costa Crociere SpA, the Italian cruise company, to pay hefty damages.

While insisting Schettino deserves conviction and a stiff prison sentence, the plaintiffs' lawyers lamented to the court that no one from the cruise company's upper echelons was put on trial.

Prosecutors insisted Schettino was a "reckless idiot" and asked the court to convict him and sentence him to 26 years and three months in prison.

Four Concordia crew members and Costa's land-based crisis coordinator were allowed to plea bargain. None is serving prison time.

Costa Crociere's lawyer at the trial has rejected the assertion that the company bore any blame in the shipwreck.

Cruise travel has been a growing part of tourism, one of Italy's main industries. Costa Crociere SpA has been a big customer of an Italian state-controlled shipbuilder.

In a last appeal to the court, defense lawyer Domenico Pepe contended the shipwreck was an "accident . . . and successive events led to the deaths of these poor people."

Schettino contended that no one died because of the collision, but because of problems beyond his control. Those factors included a helmsman who botched Schettino's orders immediately before and after the collision, and crew members who weren't fluent in English or in Italian, the working language of the ship.

An emergency generator failed after the crash, and water-tight compartment doors also didn't work properly. Survivors also said they weren't given emergency drills after they started what was supposed to be a weeklong Mediterranean cruise.

The defense lawyer expressed the hope that "this trial will serve for something, at least to save lives" on future cruises because of lessons learned.

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Francesco Schettino, the captain of the Costa Concordia luxury liner that capsized and killed more than 30 people in 2012, has been sentenced to 16 years in jail.
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Wednesday, 11 Feb 2015 02:39 PM
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