Last updated at 16:03 BST, Monday, 09 July 2012

Costa Concordia captain speaks out

Summary

9 July 2012

The Italian captain of the Costa Concordia – the cruise ship that hit rocks and sank - has released a letter defending his actions. In this first detailed public explanation since the catastrophe, Captain Francesco Schettino says he took a series of steps that averted an even greater disaster.

Reporter:

Alan Johnston

Costa Concordia

More than 30 people died after the Costa Concordia cruise ship ran aground.

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Report

As the man in command of the Costa Concordia on the night she sank, Captain Schettino became a hate figure in the Italian media. Blame has been heaped on him for sailing his vessel recklessly close to a reef off the island of Giglo. But now, for the first time, he's tried to explain his actions publicly.

In a letter released by his lawyers, the captain seems to suggest that he should have been told by one of his crew that he was too close to the shore. But he says that he realised that he was too near shallow water when he saw breaking waves off to his left. He then immediately swung the vessel away to the right. That meant, he says, that a very serious head-on collision with the reef was avoided.

Instead there was a less damaging, glancing blow that enabled the ship to limp on rather than sink immediately with huge loss of life. Captain Schettino even suggests that what he calls "a divine hand" might have been guiding him as he made the crucial decision to turn. He says that after the collision he put into operation an emergency plan that involved shutting watertight doors and sailing his stricken ship into shallower water. This made it possible, he says, to abandon the vessel more safely. And again, he argues, this action saved lives.

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Vocabulary

hate figure

someone who is disliked by the public or blamed for something

recklessly

carelessly

publicly

openly rather than privately

shallow

not deep

head-on collision

direct hit

glancing blow

smaller, less direct or damaging collision

limp on

move slowly after suffering injury or damage

watertight

sealed so that water cannot get through

stricken

damaged

abandon

leave, desert

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