Story Archive

Captain Crunch

“I was called to speak because I am an expert,” said Francesco Schettino, about his invitation to lecture for two hours at Sapienza University of Rome about emergency practices. “I had to talk about panic management.” After working six years as a ship captain, “I know what to do in these sorts of situations.” If Schettino’s name sounds familiar, it’s because in 2012 he was the captain of the Italian cruise ship Costa Concordia, which hit a rock when he commanded it too close to an island off the coast of Italy; it capsized, killing 32 passengers. But Schettino didn’t help with the ship’s “emergency practices” after the disaster struck: he abandoned ship, going to shore rather than helping evacuate his passengers. He was dubbed “Captain Coward” by the Italian press, and faces 20 years in prison in his ongoing criminal trial. (RC/AFP) ...It took him two hours to say “Trample women and children to be first in the exit line”?

Story Update: Schettino’s request to obtain a plea bargain failed. He faced charges of multiple counts of manslaughter, causing a maritime accident, abandoning ship with passengers still on board, and lack of cooperation with rescue operations. It was a gruelling trial: it took 19 months to go over all of the evidence and receive testimony from around 400 witnesses.

In court, Schettino denied that he did the close pass to impress a Moldovan dancer who was on the bridge at the time, though he did admit to having an affair with her. On 11 February 2015, Schettino, then 54, was convicted and sentenced to to 16 years in prison (10 years for manslaughter, 5 years for causing the shipwreck, and 1 year for abandoning his passengers), plus ordered (with the ship’s owners) to pay court costs. In addition, Schettino is prohibited from captaining a ship for 5 years once released, though it would be surprising if any company would hire him.

Original Publication Date: 31 August 2014
This story is in True’s book collections, in Volume 21.

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