Prosecutor seeks trial for Costa cruise ship capt

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Associated Press

Posted on February 25, 2013 at 11:01 AM

Updated Monday, Feb 25 at 6:32 PM

ROME (AP) — Italian prosecutors on Monday officially requested an indictment of the Costa Concordia's captain on manslaughter charges in the shipwreck of the cruise liner that killed 32 people last year off the Tuscan coast.

Prosecutors based in Grosseto, Tuscany, also are seeking a trial for Francesco Schettino, the captain of the luxury cruise liner, on charges of causing a shipwreck and abandoning the vessel during the frantic and confused evacuation of passengers and crew.

The Concordia cruised close to the shores of tiny Giglio island so that people on the island could see the ship pass by on the night of Jan. 13, 2012, prosecutors say, when it slammed into a jagged reef, which speared the ship and left a 70-meter (230-feet) long gash in the hull.

The cruise liner quickly took on water and capsized, ending on its side near the island's port.

Prosecutors also requested the indictment of five other crew members, including two other officers on the bridge. The proposed charges against them vary, but all are accused of manslaughter.

Passengers were having dinner at a gala event when the accident occurred during a Mediterranean cruise. Ship officials at first tried to minimize what happened, saying only there was a blackout, and evacuation wasn't immediately ordered. When the order to evacuate did come, the ship was tilting so much on one side, that many lifeboats couldn't be lowered.

Schettino has tried to depict himself as a hero, claiming it was his deft steering after the collision that allowed the ship to move closer to the port and help save lives. He also claimed that the reef was not marked on the ship's navigational charts. Sailors in the area say the reef is a well-known tourist attraction in the pristine waters off Giglio.

Chief Prosecutor Francesco Verusio said after a sophisticated scientific and other technological investigation was carried out, "the determining cause of the events of the shipwreck, deaths and injuries, is, unfortunately, dramatically due to the human factor."

It was not clear when a judge would rule on the indictment requests.

Prosecutors also said Costa Crociere SpA, the Italian cruise company, has asked for a plea bargain agreement which, if it was accepted, could see Costa pay a €1 million ($1.35 million) fine. The company has tried to put all the blame on the shoulders of Schettino.

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