18 Jan 2012

Coastguard heard pleading with ship's captain

9:02 pm on 18 January 2012

An Italian newspaper has released what it says is a recording of coastguards pleading angrily with the captain of a stricken cruise liner in Italy to return to his ship.

The Costa Concordia crashed into rocks near the island of Giglo off Italy's west coast on Friday night before capsizing.

Divers found five more bodies inside the capsized ship on Tuesday, raising the confirmed death toll to 11, but more than 20 people remain unaccounted for.

The captain, Francesco Schettino, 52, is accused of manslaughter and abandoning the ship before all on board were evacuated. He denies the allegations.

In the recording, which newspaper Corriere della Sera said was of ship-to-shore radio communications, a coastguard repeatedly ordered the captain back on board to help evacuate the remaining passengers.

Asked by the coastguard what he was doing, the captain said: "I am here to coordinate the rescue ..."

"What are you coordinating there! Get on board! Coordinate the rescue from on board! Are you refusing?", the coastguard said.

"No, I am not refusing."

"Are you refusing to go aboard, captain? Tell me the reason why you are not going back on board."

" (inaudible)... there is a another lifeboat ... "

"You get back on board! That is an order! There is nothing else for you to consider. You have sounded the 'Abandon Ship'. Now I am giving the orders. Get back on board. Is that clear? Don't you hear me?," the coastguard shouted.

Later in the exchange the captain asked: "Do you realise that it is dark and we can't see anything?"

"So, what do you want to do, to go home, Schettino?! It's dark and you want to go home? Go to the bow of the ship where the ladder is and tell me what needs to be done, how many people there are, and what they need," the coastguard replies.

Captain under house arrest

The captain appeared in court on Tuesday and was refused bail. He is to be held under house arrest.

During the hearing, Mr Schettino said he could not get on board the vessel as it was standing at a 90 degree angle, the BBC reports.

He has previously maintained that he did not abandon the ship before the evacuation was completed.

Lawyer Bruno Leporatti says his client is innocent and his actions may have saved lives.

"The captain has replied to all the questions and given the court his version of events in a coherent manner.

"The captain defended his role on the direction of the ship after the collision, which in the captain's opinion, saved hundreds if not thousands of lives."