Costa Concordia cruise ship captain Francesco Schettino made his first court appearance at a closed hearing in Italy Tuesday, as search efforts continue for the 24 people still missing after the luxury cruise ship capsized off the Tuscany coast Friday night.
Schettino, 52, was arrested Saturday in connection with investigation of manslaughter, abandoning ship and causing a shipwreck. Prosecutors Tuesday called the captain's behavior Friday reckless, cowardly and deadly, adding he might face up to 15 years in prison in connection with the incident, in which at least 11 people have been declared dead.
Prosecutors Tuesday pointed to just-released excerpts of audio communications between port authority radio and Schettino, painting a picture that the captain was lackadaisical and might have violated the first law of the sea: leaving passengers behind.
Here is the transcript of the exchange:
Captain Schettino: It's Capt. Schettino.
Port Authority: Schettino, listen to me, there are people trapped onboard, now you go back, you will go with your rescue boat under the stern of the ship, there are some steps, you climb those steps and you get onboard and you get back to me letting me know how many people are on board. Is that clear to you? I am actually recording this conversation captain.
Port Authority: Speak in a loud voice.
Captain: So, the ship right now ...
Port Authority: Speak in a loud voice! Put your hand by the microphone to cover it and speak up! Is that clear?
Captain: So, right now the ship is tilted…
Port Authority: I understand that. Listen to me, there are people that are getting off using the rope ladder on the stern side, you go back there and you go up that ladder the opposite way, you go onboard the ship and you tell me how many people are there. And what they need. You tell me if there are children, women or people that need assistance and you give me a number for each one of these categories is that clear?
Captain: Officer, please.
Port Authority: There are no "pleases!" Get back on board! Please assure me that you are going back on board.
Captain: I am here on the rescue boat. I'm right here, I didn't go anywhere else, I'm here.
Port Authority: What are you doing captain?
Captain: I'm here to coordinate rescue operations.
Port Authority: Do you refuse to do that?
Captain: No, I'm not refusing to do that.
Port Authority: Are you refusing to back on board?
Captain: No, I am not refusing to go back. I am not going because the other rescue boat stopped.
Port Authority: Get back on board! This is an order! You don't need to make any other assessment. You have declared that you have abandoned ship, therefore I'm in command. Get back on board right now is that clear?
Port Authority: Can you not hear me?
Captain: I'm getting back on board.
Port Authority: Then go! And call me right away when you are on board. There's my rescuer there.
Captain: Where is your rescuer?
Port Authority: My rescuer is on the stern side, go! There are already bodies, Schettino! Go!
Captain: Officer how many bodies are there?
Port Authority: I don't know. I know about one… I've heard about one, but you must tell me!
Captain: Do you realize it's dark out here and we can't see anything?
Port Authority: What do you want to do? Do you want to go home? It's dark so you want to go home? Get on the stern of that ship climb the ladder and tell me what can be done, how many people are there and what they need. Right now!
Captain: I'm here with my second officer.
Port Authority: You and your second officer must get back on board right now, is that clear?
Captain: I just wanted to tell you that the other rescue boat here with other rescuers stopped. It's just stopped. Now I've called the other rescuers.
Port Authority: You've been telling me the same thing for an hour now get back on board! On board! And you get back to me right away telling me how many people are there.
Captain: It's fine officer, I'm going.
Port Authority: Then go, right now!
Reports out of Italy indicate Schettino swerved the ship four miles off-course to wave to a pal who was on land, before hitting a rock.
Capt. William Wright, a longtime cruise ship commander, explained to ABC News that “the captain is the last person to leave the sinking ship.
"I find it very hard to understand how any captain under such dire circumstances would elect to leave his vessel."
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