Things keep getting worse for Francesco Schettino, the captain of stricken Italian cruise ship Costa Concordia.
After being blasted by media outlets for abandoning his vessel before all passengers were evacuated (listen to the tense audio recording between Capt. Schettino and a Coast Guard official here), Schettino attempted to redeem himself with a weak excuse, telling investigators he accidentally slipped and fell into a lifeboat.
But with the death toll at 11 and at least 23 people still missing after the luxury liner ran aground off the West Coast of Italy on Jan. 13, strange details about the captain’s behaviour before and after the incident are bubbling to the surface.
“The captain has been branded a reckless show-off who refused to listen to orders and operated the ship as it if was a speed boat,” says Francoise Kadri and Dario Thuburn of the AFP (via National Post).
Fellow colleague, Martino Pellegrino, also described the Naples-born seafarer as being a regular risk-taker. He told Italian newspaper La Repubblica, “If I had to make a comparison, we got the impression that he [Schettino] would drive a bus like a Ferrari” (via The Telegraph).
Before the Costa Concordia struck underwater rocks, Schettino admits straying off course to salute his former boss, Mario Polombo.
“I was navigating by sight because I knew the depths well and I had done this manoeuvre three or four times. But this time I ordered the turn too late and I ended up in water that was too shallow. I don’t know why it happened. I was a victim of my instincts,” Schettino told investigators in a three-hour interrogation Tuesday.
But even Polombo has questioned Schettino’s tactics, telling investigators that he was “too high-spirited and a dare devil,” reports the AFP.
The media seems even more baffled by Schettino’s behaviour following the crash. According to Spiegel Online’s Fabian Reinhold, Schettino spent the morning after the accident wandering his hotel, reportedly asking the manager and taxi driver where he could find dry socks.
Reinhold also described Schettino as an “experienced captain” who had been working for the Costa Crociere shipping line for 10 years.
But those credentials are now being called into question. The phone conversation of Capt. Schettino repeatedly being ordered to return the ship in the hours after the collision doesn’t help his case.
Schettino was placed under house arrest Tuesday night after a three-day stint in jail. He awaits trial for accusations of manslaughter and abandoning ship.