GIGLIO, Italy (CBS NEWS) -- Captain Francesco Schettino stepped aboard the Costa Concordia Thursday for the first time since it capsized off Italy's coast with him at the controls more than two years ago.
When the vast cruise ship ground into the rocky shore of the Italian
island of Giglio on Jan. 13, 2012, 32 people lost their lives. The Costa
Concordia has been hoisted upright and secured by salvage workers and
is now sitting solidly on two underwater outcrops of rock off the
Schettino arrived on Giglio aboard a ferry from
Italy's mainland Tuesday night, after the Tuscan court agreed to let him
go back onto the ship. The court in Grosseto, where Schettino is facing charges
of manslaughter, abandoning ship and causing a shipwreck, authorized an
inspection on the Costa Concordia to be carried out by a group of
experts and attended by the former captain.
He stepped onto the stricken vessel at about 10:30 a.m. local time (4:30 a.m. Eastern).
experts will be examining an electrical generator in the ship's engine
room and the bridge. Judge Giovanni Puliatti stressed that Schettino was
being allowed onto the ship "as a defendant, not a consultant" and
therefore that he could board the ship to help investigators, but not to
The ship's emergency generator is believed to have malfunctioned on that
fateful night. The generator is responsible for providing power and
managing a series of mechanisms on the ship in case of failure,
including the mechanical arms for the lifeboats and the elevators.
is the second inspection authorized by the court since the beginning of
the year in an effort to determine whether any factors beyond human
error contributed to the loss of life in the disaster.
court-requested inspection was carried out on January 23. Just one day
before that, two employees of the Concordia's operator, Costa Crociere,
are believed to have inspected the emergency power unit, boarding the
vessel illegally after it was sealed by investigators. That has led
Grosseto prosecutors to open a separate investigation into Costa
Concordia guardian Franco Porcellacchia and Captain Camillo Casella.
now Schettino has been the sole defendant in the case involving the
actual wreck, and he continues to deny the charges. On the ferry to
Giglio he explained his desire to return to the island to an Italian
journalist: "I have always said that I put my reputation on the line.
This is an act due to give dignity to the living and to pay tribute to
the dead, to establish the truth and to honor all the Italian
Schettino's lawyer Domenico Pepe described his
return to the island as an act of courage. He said it was an emotional
moment for his client and that his going aboard the ship could help
ascertain the facts.
Residents on Giglio, however, were not pleased by Schettino's return to the island, and nor were some of the victim's families.
makes no sense for Schettino to be here now," Samantha Brizzi, who
works at one of the island's real estate agencies, told CBS News. "It's
too late, and too late to help with investigations. Where was he when
parents were looking for their children and loved ones on that night?"
woman, who has lived on Giglio for 60 years, said Schettino should not
bear the blame for the disaster alone. "Mistakes happen in life," she
said. "Others are responsible as well."
The French mother of one of the victims wrote to the mayor of the island, saying she was angered by Schettino's return.
recalled their shock on the night of the disaster and the captain's
decision to abandon the ship before the more than 4,000 passengers and
crewmembers had been evacuated -- a move which has seen him dubbed the "Coward Captain"
in the Italian press. Residents opened up their homes, provided warm
clothes, blankets and food to the stranded passengers. Many said they
would be unable to forget that night for the rest of their lives.
were hugely relieved when salvage workers on the island managed last
year to successfully rotate the 114,500-ton ship into an upright
position. The unprecedented salvage operation continues, and workers
hope to re-float the ship in the next few months and then tow it away
Residents are looking forward to that day, but a decision as to where the ship will be taken for scrapping is still pending.
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