Captain Francesco Schettino, the man dubbed "Captain Coward" for abandoning the Italian cruise liner Costa Concordia after it struck the rocks and sank off the Tuscan island of Giglio in Italy in January, said today that everyone will owe him an apology when the truth comes out.
The captain's decision that night to "salute" the pretty Mediterranean island by steering the ship close to shore ended in disaster. Thirty-two people died in the tragedy, including 2 American passengers. The ship ended up titled on its side, lying half-submerged in the sea.
The Costa Concordia was 951 feet long, larger than the ill-fated Titanic. It had 4,200 passengers and crew members on board.
In an interview published today in the Italian daily Il Giornale, Schettino is quoted as saying, "All I read about me are indecent falsehoods," and, "I will not be massacred by defaming lies." There is evidence, he says, that tells a completely different story, and he will reveal it.
"Everyone has had their say now and as some have distorted the truth, I will speak now," he said. He told the paper he is writing a book that will correct the image people have of him and "bring to light what people don't want to have known."
According to Schettino the book will highlight "un-presented proof, hidden documents, entire recordings which up until now have only been released in part." In the book he said he will also write about the "shameful titillating gossip" the media focused on and the much-quoted taped conversation in which he was urged to "get back on board, damn it," by the commander of the Coast Guard.
Schettino faces a possible indictment for multiple manslaughter, abandoning his post before the evacuation of all passengers and crew had been completed, and failing to communicate properly with the maritime authorities. He has insisted in court, during recent pre-trial hearings and again in today's interview, that he "saved a lot of people" with a last-minute maneuver that lessened the ship's impact against the rocks. There are "dozens of people who will testify to this," he is quoted as saying.
The experts called to testify at pre-trial hearings in October were not so impressed with the captain's skill. Admiral Giuseppe Cavo Dragone said the captain had plenty of time and room to avoid gashing the Costa Concordia on the rocks but he failed to react.
"The maneuver after the impact was completely fortuitous because the ship was (by then) out of control," Dragone told the judge, who had asked whether the ship could have avoided the accident.
In the interview, Schettino describes the situation on board the ship once it had tilted and partly sunk. He says he coordinated the rescue operations but was forced to come ashore because the dingy he was in to oversee the rescue operation started to take on water.
Schettino ends the interview by saying, "I am just getting started ... I will soon tell shocking truths. And then those who have denigrated me will have to apologize, not to me, but to the families of the victims and to the public who were cheated with false and misleading information."
A judge is expected to decide in the coming months whether Schettino, five of his Costa Concordia crew members and three Costa executives are to be sent to trial for the tragedy. Any trial, however, is unlikely to begin before next year.
Meanwhile, the wreck remains off the coast of Giglio as salvage workers continue to secure it. They have said they hope to float it to a nearby port by next summer.