Rome

Search for missing Concordia victims continues

Bones found didn't belong to Tricarichi, Rebello

Search for missing Concordia victims continues

(By Denis Greenan). Rome, September 27 - Bones found at the Costa Concordia wreck site Thursday are not from the two bodies still missing after the January 2012 disaster which killed 32, according to sources close to the disaster commissioner's office. The other 30 bodies were recovered soon after the huge liner went down after hitting a rock off Tuscany's Giglio Island. No official announcement has been made saying the bones did not belong to the missing pair but the sources said one was in the offing. Earlier the commissioner said the press had been "too hasty" in reporting the find and asked the media to be "more cautious". "It is still not possible to say they are of human origin, still less to say they belong to someone in particular," he said. On Thursday the civil protection agency was quoted as saying the bones "probably" belonged to Italian passenger Maria Grazia Tricarichi and Indian crew member Russel Rebello, who drowned along with 30 others when the vessel capsized off. DNA tests are being carried out in a hospital in Grosseto, the largest nearby city. The trial of Concordia skipper Francesco Schettino, dubbed Captain Coward and "Italy's most hated man", resumed on Monday after a pause for the court's summer holidays. Schettino blamed a helmsman for steering the Concordia onto a rock formation after sailing close to Giglio to perform a so-called 'salute' to an admiral there. Schettino could face 20 years in prison if he is found guilty of charges including dereliction of duty and multiple manslaughter. As well as killing the 32 and injuring hundreds, the wreck - one of Italy's worst postwar maritime disasters - caused massive economic damages for Costa Cruises and the residents of Giglio, a popular tourist destination. On Monday, in his first court testimony since the start of his trial, Schettino accused Jacob Rusli Bin, the Indonesian helmsman on duty at the time, of causing the wreck by failing properly to obey a command. A court appraisal of the disaster found that the helmsman waited 13 seconds before carrying out Schettino's order to turn rudders to the left, a delay Schettino claimed was crucial. "If it hadn't been for the error of the helmsman, to not position the rudders to steer to the left, to avoid the error of collision...the blow would have been avoided," Schettino told judges in a theatre in the Tuscan city of Grosseto. "At the moment I asked the helmsman to bear left, the error was to not do so. In that moment, the ship was accelerating to the right," Schettino added, explaining a maneuver in which he sought to realign the ship in parallel to the rock formation. "But the helmsman did not carry out my orders correctly, put the rudders in the opposite direction and we hit," Schettino concluded. Admiral Giuseppe Cavo Dragone, who headed the appraisal of the shipwreck for the court, disagreed. "The helmsman delayed the maneuver 13 seconds, but the impact would have been the same," Dragone said. The question of the helmsman's blame is one of three points of debate requested by the presiding judge in this portion of the trial. The other questions probe the blame of mechanical failure - of malfunctioning emergency generators, emergency pumps and watertight doors. A witness for the prosecution also contradicted Schettino's defence claim to have guided the Concordia close to shore as it was taking on water to stop it sinking outright, thus saving the lives of more than 4,000 people after the Concordia hit the rock formation. An expert for the court on Monday said that an examination of the black box, or VDR, revealed no evidence of "orders given to correct the rudders". Moreover, the witness said, "The rudders were ungovernable" after the ship's impact with the rocks. Vilified by the media for allegedly abandoning ship without overseeing the evacuation, Schettino has claimed his image and actions have been distorted by investigators and called on judges for a new probe in July. A defense lawyer for Schettino, Francesco Pepe, said on Monday that since the wreck had been successfully pulled upright last week, a new appraisal can take place. "Making an appraisal on board the Costa Concordia is now possible. Parts of the ship have surfaced and work can begin," said Pepe. "We could ascertain the truth and understand what took place only after a series of new assessments on equipment such as, for example, emergency generators, the watertight doors, the operation of the lifeboat booms," Pepe said. Costa Cruises lawyer Marco De Luca denied that the defence's request was necessary. "The probe appraisal of the accident was exhaustive. We will see what the court decides on this new request," De Luca commented. The lurching, semi-submerged wreck of the Concordia was finally hauled upright in a 19-hour, unprecedented operation last week, to prepare it to be floated and towed away next year.

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