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Italy

Prosecutors lay full blame on Costa Concordia's captain

Summing up a pretrial hearing, Italian prosecutors have placed full blame on the captain for the sinking of the Costa Concordia, which killed 32 in January. A judge will decide whether the case will go to trial.

Captain Francesco Schettino is accused of manslaughter, causing the January 13 wreck and abandoning ship before the evacuation of more than 4,000 passengers and crew was complete. The Concordia made a too-close pass of the Tuscan island Giglio, hitting a rock and tearing open the ship's hull.

Schettino has admitted making mistakes, but says that he alone is not to blame. The captain has also argued that he prevented an even bigger disaster by steering into shallower water after the initial impact.

Francesco Verusio, the chief prosecutor, however, said the hearing showed that the move into shallow waters was thanks not to Schettino, but to "God's will."

Remaining questions

A total of 10 people are being investigated: Schettino, six crew members and three managers from the company that owns the ship, Costa Crociere.

Schettino said the management of Costa Corciere - owned by the US-based Carnival Corporation, the world's biggest cruise operator - knew that ships made close passes of Giglio for amusement and to salute people on the island. The company has rejected that accusation.

Costa Crociere has also denied suggestions that faulty generator equipment was onboard or that the company delayed informing authorities ashore of the accident.

Schettino's defense team also argued that an Indonesian helmsman had misunderstood the captain's orders to avoid the rocks off the island and that an expert report showed that, had that been done, the accident may have been avoided.

The captain said prison is not what worries him. "I fear only one thing," Schettino said, "that the truth will not come out."

Prosecutors hope to wrap up their investigations by the end of the year. At that point a judge will decide whether there is enough evidence for a criminal trial.

mkg/tm (Reuters, AFP)

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