Coast Guard: Captain Refused Orders to Return to Italian Cruise Ship

Posted January 17th, 2012 at 6:45 pm (UTC-5)
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An audio recording of an angry exchange between the Italian Coast Guard and the captain of a capsized cruise ship reveals that the captain refused orders to get back on his stricken boat.

Coast Guard Captain Gregory De Falco demanded that Captain Francesco Schettino use a ladder to climb back onto the damaged Costa Condordia and report how many people were still on board.

But Schettino responded that he was not going anywhere, complaining that it was too dark on the boat. He said he was coordinating the rescue from a lifeboat. A furious Captain De Falco bellowed that he was now in charge and he ordered Schettino back on the boat — warning him that he was “going to pay” for his actions.

A judge released Schettino from jail Tuesday and placed him under house arrest. He faces charges of manslaughter and abandoning ship before all the passengers were rescued.

The Costa Concordia hit rocks and capsized off the coast of northern Italy late Friday. At least 11 people were killed and 24 are still missing. The ship's owners blame the accident on the captain's errors.

The owners say he steered too close to shore and made decisions during the emergency that did not follow company procedures, which are based on international standards.

Officials say that when the ship hit the rocks, passengers were ordered to put on life jackets and to board life rafts. However, passengers say the ship tilted so sharply and quickly that many lifeboats could not be lowered into the water.