Italian cruise captain committed ‘mortal sin’ by disembarking early

January 18, 2012

By , FoxNews

The captain of a capsized cruise ship made repeated excuses as an Italian coast guard official repeatedly ordered him to get back on the vessel potentially still packed with thousands of frightened passengers and crew, a recording released Tuesday reveals.

Capt. Francesco Schettino can be heard on the recorded telephone conversation with Italian Coast Guard Capt. Gregorio De Falco telling the official that he does not want to return to the ship despite ongoing evacuations after it struck a rock late Friday and capsized.

“Tell me if there are children, women and what kind of help they need,” De Falco said. “And you tell me the number of each of these categories. Is that clear? Look, Schettino, perhaps you have saved yourself from the sea, but I will make you look very bad. I will make you pay for this.”

“Captain, please,” Schettino replied.

“There is no please about it,” De Falco said. “Go back on board. Assure me you are going back on board!”

Schettino replied: “I am in the life boat, under the ship, I haven’t gone anywhere, I’m here.”

Schettino later agrees to reboard, but it is unclear if he did.

Read the Transcript: Cruise Captain and Italian Coast Guard Official

His attorney says Schettino “saved hundreds if not thousands of lives” when he maneuvered the ship close to shore after crashing into reefs. He has been placed under house arrest, the Associated Press reports.

Schettino had been jailed for investigation of manslaughter, abandoning ship and causing a shipwreck. He could face up to 12 years in prison on the abandoning ship charge alone.

The 52-year-old Schettino, described by the Italian media as a genial, tanned ship’s officer, has worked for 11 years for the ship’s owner and was made captain in 2006. He hails from Meta di Sorrento, in the Naples area, which produces many of Italy’s ferry and cruise boat captains. He attended the Nino Bixio merchant marine school near Sorrento.

Schettino committed a “mortal sin” when he disembarked the vessel prior its complete evacuation, the vice president of American Maritime Officers Union told

Michael Murphy, national vice president of government relations for the largest union of merchant marines officers in the United States, said Schettino should never have fled the Costa Concordia after it capsized.

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