Friday, October 12, 2012

The Sunk Ship: Italian, French And American Systems May All Ensure Justice For Victims

Posted by Peter Quennell

Our series here tracks how the Italian system is performing. On Monday the criminal inquest will begin.

So far it is looking (as usual) pretty good but as the Costa Concordia was an American-owned ship, and as many Americans and French were on board, the French and American systems could pick up a part of the legal strain.

This is a huge case with 32 dead, thousands suffering serious stress, a ship written off, and its expensive refloating for breaking-up elsewhere now under way.  Andrea Vogt reports:

The Italian criminal inquest into the Costa Concordia shipwreck finally opens in Grosseto ““ the closest town to the scene of the accident - on Monday 15 October. 

The Grosseto judges will hear evidence from a dry but damning 270-page technical report compiled by two Navy admirals and two engineers. It details the maddening series of errors by crew, captain and the cruise company Costa Crociere that doomed the mega cruise ship.

Among the nine people facing charges ranging from manslaughter to abandoning ship is the captain, Francesco Schettino. Given the stories of the mistress ““ a Moldovan dancer called Domnica Cemortan ““ and the accusation that he purposefully took the ship too close to land for a sail-by ‘salute’, his presence alone guarantees a heavy media presence.

The much reviled captain’s wife Fabiola Russo and his girlfriend Domnica Cemortan (images below) both still seem loyal to him but (cartoon at bottom) they may now be his only two friends and one or other could break away at any time.

On [French] Coast Guard orders, the 456 [French] survivors were interviewed by the French Gendarmerie, who asked them all the same questions, amassing a formidable database of independent depositions detailing their experiences and the post-traumatic stress many suffered.

Half of them formed a victims’ association to bargain collectively…. The group met in recent weeks to discuss progress in the case and seek comfort in their shared suffering.

To measure the psychological impact, a study was commissioned by a psychologist from the University of Haute Alsace. It revealed trauma typical of survival scenarios: nightmares, anxiety, depression, anger, a sense of abandonment and a loss of faith in the fairness of fellow humans (especially among the mothers with children)....

The massive body of evidence assembled in France has not gone unnoticed in Italy, where it will likely be submitted as evidence. “The Italian magistrates are very interested ““ we have 456 different people responding to the same questions,” Bertrand Courtois told The Week.

Carnival Line’s American stock is still an under-performer, though its fleetwide systems have been tightened up, and the same with other cruise lines. Generally a safe industry but with spectacular disasters now and then.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 10/12/12 at 06:42 PM in The wider contextsItalian context


The hearing starts today (monday). Here’s another pre-hearing report by Andrea Vogt, this time on the technical report prepared for the court which includes several shocking new findings.

One is that, although as in aircraft the use of English at the controls is the international standard, the guy at the wheel was not Schettino himself but a Bulgarian with limited English who persistently steered the opposite way to what he was being instructed.

Instead of stepping in Schettino joked about it.

Another is that Schettino was not the one who steered a u-turn and saved the ship from sinking in deep water and potentially drowning hundreds, as his girlfriend, wife and other forces have been arguing in slight vindication - it was a 15-knot headwind.

And another is that Schettino knew the ship was flooding but took 35 minutes to order “abandon ship” by which time an impromptu abandonment was well under way. Meanwhile passengers were dying at the rate of about 1 a minute.

In the Perugia case the crazy charge is made by Curt Knox’s hatchet men that Mignini had complete hypnotic dominance - in fact, he had almost no latitude for initiative whatsoever. But this captain really didnt have anyone checking or second-guessing him.

The only offiical hero is the coastguard guy who was miles away from the ship and who was correctly telling Schettino what he must do - and being ignored.

So far it’s Italian justice system 4 or 5 for careful performance and the American shipping line and its captain 0.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 10/15/12 at 01:47 PM | #

It was an unnecessary tragedy.  I’m very sorry for the victims.

But I do have to smile, at the cartoon you made.

Posted by believing on 10/17/12 at 06:04 AM | #

Nearly five years later…

Cassation has confirmed in finality the 16 year sentence for Captain Francesco Schettino of the wrecked ship.

We had posted quite a lot on this, curious to know how Italian justice would shape up.

It did well.

Schettino the coward who abandoned ship blamed many others; but the Italian courts didnt buy it.

He was the captain in total charge and 32 people died due to his recklessness.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 06/30/17 at 02:11 PM | #

Recall how the captain of the cruise-ship Costa Concordia was assigned ALL blame for the beaching of the ship and 33 deaths? He was sentenced to 16 years.

Some 18 months ago he wrote from prison to a UN maritime safety conference in London (which ignored the letter) charging that what happened that night had never been properly analyzed by the courts or anyone else.

He did blame other staff, and still does. But he blames the the Carnival Line’s deficient systems too, and in effect says they remain another accident waiting to happen.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 01/16/20 at 04:14 PM | #
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