Lifestyle & Belief

Costa Concordia captain Francesco Schettino freed from house arrest


Floating barriers are pulled behind a boat to prevent pollution from the stricken cruise ship Costa Concordia from reaching the coast of the Italian island of Giglio on January 18, 2012.


Tullio M. Puglia

Francesco Schettino, the captain of the Costa Concordia cruise ship that ran aground off Italy Jan. 13, killing 30, has been freed from house arrest.

However a court had ordered him to stay within the borders of his home town of Meta di Sorrento near Naples while the case against him is pending, one of his lawyers, Paolo Bastianini, told Agence France-Presse.

Schettino was charged with multiple counts of manslaughter, causing the accident and abandoning the ship before those aboard had been rescued.

He  was placed under house arrest in February following the Costa Concordia's grounding off Giglio Island, Tuscany, with 4,229 people aboard.

Magistrates in the Tuscan town of Grosseto considered him a flight risk and also banned him from speaking to anyone apart from his lawyer and family.

However, the judge leading investigations against Schettino, Valeria Montesarchio, said the months he had spent under house arrest have already produced a "deterrent effect," CNN reported

Cruise company Costa Crociere SpA and prosecutors have blamed Schettino for the grounding, saying he steered the vessel too close to shore in a publicity stunt.

In a written memo to his lawyers, Schettino repeated claims that the reef — a landmark in the area — wasn't on the ship's charts, and that it was his skill that avoided a head-on collision. 

"There are those who say the impact with the stern was caused because I was suffering from a hallucination. What hallucination! It was rather my instinct, my skills, the ability to know the sea and suddenly change direction," he said in the letter, reportedly published in the Italian newspaper Corriere del Mezzogiorno and cited by CNN.

He also defended his handling of the Concordia after the collision, the Italian news agency ANSA reported, saying he was no coward, and even credits his actions for preventing further loss of life, the Associated Press reported.

"The dilemma was whether to evacuate or not. Evacuating over 4,000 people from a boat in motion has its risks. To do it would have been almost a liberation for me, but my conscience meant I could not do it lightheartedly."

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