Italian Cruise Captain Says He Abandoned Ship by Accident

The captain of the wrecked Italian cruise liner explained that he wound up abandoning the ship by accident because he tripped and fell into a life boat.

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The captain of the wrecked Italian cruise liner explained that he wound up abandoning the ship by accident because he tripped and fell into a life boat while helping people evacuate. It's a pretty lame excuse, but after tapes already had Capt. Francesco Schettino refusing to return to the ship at the order of a coast guard official, the whole "personal pride" issue is probably a secondary concern to avoiding criminal charges for abandoning the ship too early. As the English-language press picks up reports from Italian newspapers that covered his Tuesday court hearing, Schettino's line of reasoning sounds laughably contrived: "I didn't even have a life jacket because I had given it to one of the passengers. I was trying to get people to get into the boats in an orderly fashion. Suddenly, since the ship was at a 60-70° angle, I tripped and I ended up in one of the boats. That's how I found myself in the lifeboat," according to The Guardian which picked up some of his testimony from the Italian paper La RepubblicaThe Sun reported that Schettino told an Italian magistrate he "saved thousands of lives" before leaving the ship.

Meanwhile, the wrecked Costa Concordia shifted a little bit on Wednesday, too slightly for rescue divers to notice but enough for authorities to call off the search for 21 people still missing (the figure has changed from earlier; see our update below). CBS is reporting the search has been halted indefinitely, as there's little hope left for those not accounted for. "The urgency has gone out of the search operation. No one expects to find anyone else alive aboard the largest cruiseliner ever to have been wrecked," the network reported. The ship's resting on a rock that's keeping it from plummeting into an underwater trench, so if the instruments rescuers have hooked up to it show even a little movement, the rescue divers get called out for fear they could be trapped inside if it suddenly falls.

Update (11:52 a.m. EST): An Italian coastguard commander told the BBC in an interview that he still has hope they will find survivors, provided the ship stays stable enough for rescue operations to safely continue. "We have a lot of hope still," he said. The weather is predicted to get rough after another day, which would make the situation too dangerous for rescuers to enter.

Update (12:47 p.m. EST): The Associated Press has some hopeful news: A woman listed as missing has just been located alive in Germany. So now the total figures are 11 people dead and 21 missing, as opposed to the 22 we reported earlier.

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