On Wednesday, the former captain of the Costa Concordia cruise ship was convicted of the 2012 crash of the Italian liner that killed 32 crew members and passengers when it crashed into rocks off the Tuscan island of Giglio. He was sentenced to a 16-year prison term and ordered to pay court courts, providing a little more closure for dozens of grieving families.
Francesco Schettino, 54, was found guilty of multiple counts of manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and also abandoning ship before all the 4,229 passengers and crew had been rescued.
The prosecution had requested a 26-year sentence.
Before the deliberations began, Schettino, told the panel of three-judges his “He was sacrificed to serve the economic interests,” of his employer. He further stated, “He was awaiting a verdict that should have involved an entire organization but instead saw him as the one and only defendant.”
The jury took eight hours to deliberate. During the reading of the verdict by Judge Giovanni Puliatti, Schettino wasn’t present.
Prosecutors’ were requesting the immediate arrest of Schettino, but the request was denied by the court. In Italy, defendants have two appeal levels and they don’t have to begin serving their sentence until those appeal processes have been exhausted. A process that can take years.
Background Information on the Shipwreck
The wreck happened on January 13, 2012 just after 9:45 p.m. as passengers were dining. Testimony by Schettino said, “He steered the 952-foot, 13 deck ship close to the eastern shore of the island of Giglio, off Tuscany, to “impress passengers.” But, he struck a reef that tore a 160-foot gash in the port hull. At which time it caused the engine room to rapidly flood, knocking out propulsion and electricity that then caused the ship to drift.
Schettino delayed evacuating the passengers and when he finally did, it was a chaotic scene, according to the crew and passengers.
The ship came to rest up on its starboard side outside Giglio’s port. It was determined by the medical examiner that most of the victims had drown board the ship or in the Tyrrhenia Sea after jumping or falling to their death. The last body was recovered just last year.
The trial, which has been ongoing since July 2013, showed errors made by crew members and also that equipment failed. During the last court appeal, the defense council contended, “It was an accident… and successive events led to the deaths of these poor people.”
The hope is that this trial will serve for something, at the very least saved lives on future cruises due to the lessons learned from this tragic case.
Plaintiffs’ lawyers insisted Schettino deserves a conviction and hefty prison sentence while contending no one from the cruise company’s upper echelons was put on trial. Four crew members and Costa’s land-based crisis coordinator were allowed to accept a plea bargain. None of them is serving time.
Our firm represented several passengers from the Costa Concordia incident, and we are happy to announce we were successful in resolving all of their claims. The cruise company has also paid a $1.1 million fine for the disaster.