The Italian Cruise Captain Did Not Go Down with the Ship

Prosecutors are investigating the captain of the Costa Concordia, who reportedly went ashore on a lifeboat before all the passengers on the 950-foot liner had been rescued after it slammed a rock off of Tuscany.

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Rescuers found two additional bodies in the wrecked Costa Concordia cruise liner over the weekend, raising the death toll from the grounding of the ship to five. The search continues for the bodies of additional missing passengers, as well as any who may be surviving thanks to air pockets in the capsized liner, the Associated Press reports.

Prosecutors, meanwhile, are focusing their attention on the actions of the ship's captain, who reportedly went ashore in a lifeboat before all the ship's passengers were taken to safety, then ignored instructions to go back to his post. Francesco Schettino is being held on suspicion of manslaughter and abandoning a ship in distress, charges that could bring 12 years in prison, the AP reports.

The evolving portrait of Schettino is, shall we say, light on gallantry. After he was seen among the survivors on land as the evacuation was still progressing, officers urged Schettino to obey his responsibilities and return to the ship. Schettino ignored those entreaties, an Italian official told the AP.

A French couple who boarded the Concordia in Marseille, Ophelie Gondelle and David Du Pays of Marseille, told the AP they saw the captain in a lifeboat, covered by a blanket, well before all the passengers were off the ship. They insisted on telling a reporter what they saw, so incensed that - according to them - the captain had abandoned the ship before everyone had been evacuated.

"The commander left before and was on the dock before everyone was off," said Gondelle, 28, a French military officer.

"Normally the commander should leave at the end," said Du Pays, a police officer who said he helped an injured passenger to a rescue boat. "I did what I could."

Schettino also contributed to the saga the following brilliant quote, reflecting his insistence that the Concordia was, by his charts, safely away from the rocks: "There shouldn't have been such a rock," he told a local television outlet. You don't say.

There is also the reported detail — this ought to get played up pretty nicely in the TV version — that the good captain was eating dinner when the accident occurred.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.