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Francesco Schettino, the captain of the Costa Concordia, failed to comprehend the scale of the disaster after the ship struck rocks off the island of Giglio, the ship’s chief engineer has claimed.
Giuseppe Pilon, who rushed to the Concordia’s engine room immediately after the accident, and another engine room officer, Giovanni Iaccarino, spoke publicly about the tragedy for the first time on Sunday night.
Mr Pilon said that Captain Schettino did not understand how desperate the situation was despite direct communication from the engine room.
“The local generator was completely flooded, we no longer had control of anything so I called Captain Schettino and he asked me about Engine 4 and 5 and I said to him, ‘Captain, you haven’t understood the situation – the water is up to the first deck.’
“They didn’t tell me they had struck a rock… So I thought we had a leak. I didn’t even know that we were close to Giglio.”
Mr Iaccarino, who also appeared on the ‘Domenica Live’ TV talk show with Mr Pilon said Capt Schettino told officer Roberto Bosio: “Tonight we are in big trouble”.
“The water was rising fast, it was terrible,” Mr Iaccarino said. “I called the bridge to make them aware of the seriousness of the situation and they responded in an incredibly calm way.
“I was desperate because no one was giving any orders and the water was already up to the stern’s elevators.”
The crew’s comments came after an audio recording at a hearing in Grosseto last week revealed confusion on the bridge as Capt Schettino told his crew to turn the crippled ship one way while his second-in-command told them to steer it in the other direction.
But Capt Schettino remained defiant when he too appeared in an interview on the same Italian TV programme as his crew members on Sunday.
“I don’t want to contradict anyone, least of all the prosecutors,” he said. “I only want to say if I had not stopped the ship, if I had dropped the anchor at a depth of 100 metres, the ship would never have made it to the coast.”
Schettino also said it was a “beautiful feeling” to shake hands with the ship’s survivors at the Grosseto hearing.
“I promised them the truth will come out,” he said.
Thirty-two people died after the Concordia capsized off the Italian coast of Giglio on the night of Jan 13. During the panic-stricken evacuation, more than 4,200 passengers and crew had to scramble for safety, most taking to lifeboats but some leaping into the water.