, GROSSETO, Italy, Oct 15 – Europe’s top cruise operator came under pressure on Monday at pre-trial hearings into the Costa Concordia disaster as captain Francesco Schettino faced survivors for the first time.
Dozens of lawyers, experts and survivors attended the closed-door hearings in Grosseto in central Italy – the nearest city to the scene of the January 13 capsize of the luxury liner on Giglio island which claimed 32 lives.
“We came to see Schettino. We want to look him in the eye and see how he reacts to the accusations,” Michael Lissem, a 50-year-old from Germany who was a passenger on the luxury liner along with his wife Angelika, told AFP.
The giant ship – more than twice as heavy as the Titanic – had 4,229 people on board when it struck an offshore reef near Giglio, tearing a massive gash in its hull, just as many passengers were settling down for dinner.
The vessel took on water and keeled over, sparking a panicky evacuation.
“Schettino may have been in command but the responsibilities lie elsewhere,” said Ernesto Carusotti, an Italian survivor.
“He’ll have to answer for the error he made, that’s sure. But there are other things that have come out from the black box,” he said.
Luciano Castro, another passenger, said he shook Schettino’s hand.
“I told him I hoped the whole truth will come out and he said he was sure it would. He was very tense and quite defensive,” he said.
Dozens of survivors are suing ship owner Costa Crociere and its US parent company Carnival Corporation for hundreds of millions of dollars.
The court hearings in Grosseto could last several days. No date has yet been set for the trial, which is likely to be held only next year.