Cruise captain smiles, waves as day three of hearings begin

Schettino could face criminal charges in cruise ship disaster

Cruise captain smiles, waves as day three of hearings begin

(ANSA) - Grosseto, October 17 - Captain Francesco Schettino smiled and joked with photographers on Wednesday on his way to the third day of hearings into the January sinking of his cruise ship in which 32 people were killed. "I'm fine, do not worry," Schettino called to a photographer shooting his entrance into the hearings in the Tuscan city of Grosseto. Surrounded by his lawyers, he wished a friendly "good morning" to the journalists and crowd gathered outside the court where hearings began Monday to decide whether to indict Schettino and others on criminal charges related to the cruise ship that ran aground off the Tuscan island of Giglio. Court heard expert testimony Tuesday that Schettino had "time and room" to avoid crashing the Costa Concordia into rock formation. However, Schettino "failed to react... there was plenty of space, a huge amount of water and time to approach and take (the ship) out of danger," testified Admiral Giuseppe Cavo Dragone. "The manoeuvre after the impact was completely fortuitous because the ship was (by then) out of control," Dragone told Judge Valeria Montesarchio, who had asked for clarification on whether the ship could maneuver or stop at moment of the accident. Schettino is under investigation for multiple manslaughter, abandoning his post before the evacuation of all 4,200 passengers and crew had been completed, and failing to communicate properly with the maritime authorities. Schettino's second in command, Ciro Ambrosio, officer Salvatore Ursino and the head of the Costa Cruises fleet, Roberto Ferrarini, are also being investigated. Hearings are scheduled to last about seven days. Meanwhile, Costa Cruises said on Tuesday that it has reached compensation deals with 67% of the 3,050 passengers who did not suffer physical injury in the shipwreck of the Concordia liner in January. The compensation packages are thought to average 14,000 euros. In separate probes, prosecutors Grosseto are reportedly investigating the alleged theft of items from the wreck of the Concordia by scuba-diving looters.

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