Court hears how 32 died in Italy shipwreck

Published on NewsOK Modified: July 17, 2013 at 1:17 pm •  Published: July 17, 2013
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GROSSETO, Italy (AP) — The Italian court trying the captain of the Costa Concordia heard grim details Wednesday about how the 32 victims of the shipwreck drowned, some after diving or falling into the sea from the capsized cruise liner when lifeboats were no longer accessible.

A court official read out the names of the deceased passengers and crew members, and described how each one died, quoting verbatim from the indictment of the Concordia's captain, Francesco Schettino. The veteran Italian mariner is the sole defendant in the trial, which is being held in a theater in the Tuscan town of Grosseto.

Schettino is charged with manslaughter, causing the January 2012 shipwreck off the Tuscan island of Giglio, and abandoning ship with "hundreds of passengers and crew still aboard, unable to care for themselves or in need of coordination as the ship's tilt increased," the official said.

The Concordia, on a week-long Mediterranean cruise, speared a jagged granite reef when, prosecutors allege, Schettino steered the ship too close to Giglio's rocky shores as a favor to a crewman whose relatives live on the island.

The reef sliced a 70-meter-long (230-foot) gash in the hull. Seawater rushed in, causing the ship to rapidly lean to one side until it capsized, then drifted to a rocky stretch of seabed just outside the island's tiny port.

Survivors have described an evacuation that was so confused and delayed that by the time it got under way lifeboats on one side of the Concordia could no longer be launched because the vessel was already badly listing.

The reading of the list of the victims began with the death of a Frenchman, Francis Servel, who "not having found a place on the lifeboat, threw himself into the sea without a life vest." He was "sucked toward the bottom of the whirlpool produced by the final flipping over on the right side of the ship, and then died due to asphyxiation."

Shortly after the tragedy, survivors recounted how Servel had given his wife his life vest because she didn't know how to swim.

The bodies of victims No. 31 and 32 were never found, but after a long, futile search of the ship's interior and the nearby waters, they were declared dead.

One of them was a middle-aged Italian passenger, Maria Grazia Trecarichi, who, with no place on a lifeboat, and "while waiting to be rescued" while wearing a life vest, "slid off into the sea because of the progressive tilt of the boat" and presumably drowned, the court official said, reading from the indictment.

Victim No. 32 was a Filipino waiter, Russel Terence Rebello. The court heard how the crewman "remained on the ship to carry out the lowering of the last lifeboats" and either fell or dove into the sea because of the Concordia's dramatic tilt and was presumed to have drowned.

Other victims drowned aboard, as violently swirling water rose up inside the ship.

The court heard how some passengers were "sucked into a vortex" of water rushing into the ship when the Concordia capsized. This happened after the crew told them to go to the other side of the ship where lifeboats were being launched, and the passengers ended up trying to walk down a tilting corridor.

Wednesday was the first full one-day hearing in the trial, which is expected to last into next year. Last week it was postponed by a lawyers' strike.

Earlier Wednesday, lawyers for Schettino said they were making a last-ditch attempt to reach a plea bargain in the case, which could result in a long prison sentence if the captain is convicted.

One of his lawyers, Donato Laino, told reporters the defense wanted a deal that would see Schettino plead guilty in exchange for a three-year, five-month sentence.

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