The Guardian newspaper has translated a transcript of a damning audio recording between the Italian Coast Guard and the captain of the cruise ship Costa Concordia. The vessel capsized Friday night after hitting rocks off the Tuscan island of Giglio, and the captain could face criminal charges in the accident that led to at least 11 deaths.
The recordings come from a series of radio and phone calls where Capt. Francesco Schettino appears to mislead the Coast Guard about the status of the operation. He also initially refused to reboard the ship.
The final, and most dramatic call, took place at 1.46 am when, after confirming that he was speaking to the captain, a coastguard officer told him: “Right. You are now going back on board. You are going to go back up the rope ladder, return to the bridge and co-ordinate operations.”
There followed a long silence, Il Fatto reported.
“You must tell me how many people there are,” the coastguard officer continued. “How many passengers, women and children – and co-ordinate the rescue.”
Schettino protested that he was on hand.
“Captain,” said the coastguard officer, cutting across him. “This is an order. Now I am in command. You have declared the abandoning of a ship and are going to co-ordinate the rescue from the bridge. There are already dead bodies.”
“How many?” asked Schettino.
“You’re the one who should be telling me that,” came the reply. “What do you want to do? Go home? Now, go back up and tell me what can be done: how many people there are and what they need.”
“Alright,” said Schettino. “I’m going.”
However, two Italian newspapers report Schettino never returned to the ship. Instead, they report, he made his way to the port of Giglio by walking along the rocks where the liner had come to rest.
Prosecutors have accused Schettino of manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning his ship before all passengers were evacuated.
The Costa Concordia was carrying more than 4,200 people when it hit a reef off the Tuscan island of Giglio when Schettino made an unauthorized deviation from the cruise ship’s programmed course.
- Gaia Pianigiani, New York Times freelance reporter in Giglio, Italy