Costa Concordia: Captain 'Left Ship And Called Taxi' After Crash

Costa Concordia Captain 'Left Ship And Called Taxi' After Crash

Rescue workers investigating a cruise ship which ran into a reef off the Tuscan coast near the island of Giglio have found five more bodies in the wreck.

The find brings the death total to 11, with 24 people still missing.

Rescuers used explosives to blast their way into the Costa Concordia as they continued the search.

Two of the controlled explosions were carried out early on Tuesday to let firefighters and scuba divers enter parts of the ship that had been inaccessible.

At least three Italian families have said that although their loved ones were listed among those safely evacuated, they had not heard from them.

Coastguard official Marco Brusco said he held a "glimmer of hope" that some of the missing might have survived, but Giglio mayor Sergio Ortelli said earlier that hopes of finding any of them alive were minimal.

He told the Italian press that the only hope was that bubbles of air had formed within the ship after it hit the rocks.

Night vision footage emerged of the moment that hundreds of people clung to the side of the ship and clambered over the hull to reach lifeboats.

Meanwhile the Guardian quoted transcripts of radio calls and telephone conversations which indicated Captain Francesco Schettino was ordered by the coastguard to return to the sinking ship to continue the evacuation, after claiming the rescue was complete when it had hardly started.

Two Italian newspapers said that instead the captain walked away from the water and caught a taxi to take him away from the disaster.

Another witness, Mario Pellegrini, who is the deputy mayor of Giglio, told the Guardian he boarded the vessel around 11pm but that he never saw the captain.

Schettino is being investigated by prosecutors for possible manslaughter, abandoning ship and causing a shipwreck.

He has been accused of leaving the vessel before ensuring that all of the 4,200 people aboard, including 35 Britons, were safely evacuated.

His lawyer, Bruno Leporatti, said the captain was "overcome and wants to express his greatest condolences to the victims". He also added that the captain believed he had saved lives with a complicated emergency manoeuvre just before the crash.

Capt Schettino insisted in an interview before his jailing that he stayed with the vessel to the end, but Clarence Mitchell, who is representing Costa Cruises, said: "Mr Foschi confirmed the captain had been approaching the island of Giglio to 'make a salute'.

"The company says this (incident) was caused by an attempt by the captain to show the ship to the port. But there's a criminal investigation going on and we're not going to say anything that's going to compromise that or the captain's case."

The tragedy could also become an environmental crisis as rough seas battering the ship have raised fears fuel might leak into waters that are part of a protected sanctuary for dolphins, porpoises and whales.

The operators of the cruise liner have blamed the captain for sailing close to land to "show the ship to the port".

The chairman of Costa Cruises said the unauthorised deviation from the route had been taken to "make a salute".

Pier Luigi Foschi has apologised for the tragedy which has left dozens of people injured and the 114,000-tonne Costa Concordia lying on its side off Tuscany.

Explaining that the ship was "ultra safe", he said the captain had made an unauthorised and unapproved deviation from the ship's programmed course.

"This route was put in correctly," he said. "The fact that it left from this course is due solely to a manoeuvre by the commander that was unapproved, unauthorised and unknown to Costa."

Foschi added: "Personally and on behalf of the Costa Crociere (Cruises) I want to say we are very sorry for this tragic accident that's happened."

Below, see photos of the cruise liner after it ran aground off the Isola del Giglio.


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