BROADCAST DATE : Dec 7, 2012

Costa Concordia: The Captain’s Tale

It was the Ferrari of cruise liners – as sleek and luxurious as any vessel could be. On January 13, 2012, as it set sail onto the Mediterranean, there were more than 4000 people on board the Costa Concordia. The captain manning the cruise ship was Francesco Schettino, who looked every bit the master Italian mariner at the Club Concordia restaurant that night.

But within hours, disaster would strike as the cruise liner crashed into rocks on the coast of Italy. A 35 metre gash was torn into its hull, as the waters of the Mediterranean rushed in and the ship lots its power. In one of the worst cruise disasters in recent memory, 32 people would die, and the 114,000 tonne vessel would
take more than two years to dismantle.

For many, the enduring image of this tragedy was Captain Schettino safe and dry on land, while out in the harbour his ship continued to sink, with passengers clinging to its outer edges. He was blamed for not only steering his ship too close to the coast line, but for abandoning it while hundreds of passengers and crew were still aboard.

This week, a court convicted the captain of manslaughter, sentencing him to 16 years in jail. The prosecution had demanded a sentence of 26 years, concluding: “May God have pity on Francesco Schettino, because we cannot.”

But the captain insists he is being made a scapegoat for a terrible accident. In court, he sobbed, saying he has spent the last three years feeling like a victim of a “media-led meat grinder.”

From the night of the disaster on, the question was – why didn’t the captain tell everyone to immediately abandon ship? Why did he leave the vessel before everyone was safely off?

In 2012, Captain Schettino sat down with the fifth estate’s Bob McKeown for his first, exclusive in-depth television interview. The episode shed new light on the sequence of events that led to the loss of the largest ship ever built in Italy, with black box recordings detailing events unfolding on the doomed ship before, during and after the crash.

Hear the captain’s first-hand account of why he did what he did, which formed the basis of his defense in court.