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Trial hears Costa Concordia captain delayed rescue call

November 20, 2013 Cruise No Comments Email Email

egtmedia59The trial of Captain Francesco Schettino in Italy has heard, according to a Sky News report, in evidence from a radio operator that Francesco Schettino delayed calling rescue services for over an hour after the mammoth vessel struck rocks off the island of Giglio.

Radio operator Flavio Spadavecchia told the court he had waited and waited for Schettino to give the order so that he could alert coastguards of their situation but the order never came, holding up the rescue operation.

Costa Concordia Captain Francesco Schettino - AFPAccording to the report, prosecutors claim that by delaying the alert, valuable time was wasted in the disaster in which 32 passengers died, after Schettino deliberately changed course in order to carry out a sail by salute off the Italian island of Giglio.

Mr Spadavecchia also reportedly told the trial how he had waited for Schettino to order the “pan pan” message which is used to signify urgency on board a ship but no immediate danger to life or the vessel, with in maritime situations a “pan pan” used to inform potential rescuers of a safety issue and if it develops then a mayday call will be issued.

Mr Spadavecchia told the court,  “Schettino never gave me the order.”  “The pan pan message was never sent because Schettino never gave me the order.”  “I asked if I should send it but Schettino said no.”  “I asked at least once, maybe twice.”

“I approached the bridge and he just signalled to me “no”, adding, “If I am not mistaken he was on the telephone at the time.”

In the meantime, police on shore had received telephone calls from worried passengers onboard, as well as relatives on shore, with Mr Spadavecchia telling prosecutor Alessandro Leopizzi that he had eventually given the order after hearing “a conversation between officers on the bridge and coastguards on the mainland in Livorno and Civitavecchia”.

He said, “The officers kept saying there had been a blackout.”  “I was trying to figure out what was happening as I had been off duty just before.”  “Then I heard them say we had scraped the bottom and eventually Schettino told me to call the Costa Cruises emergency control centre.”

Prosecutors in the trial claim that Schettino called the crisis centre before calling coastguards, further wasting valuable rescue time, with Roberto Ferrarini, who was in charge of the control centre the night of the disaster, having already pleaded guilty to multiple manslaughter.

The Sky News report says that the trial is expected to last well into next year with more than 1,000 witnesses due to give evidence.

John Alwyn-Jones, Cruise Editor and Correspondent

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