ROME: Francesco Schettino, captain of the ill-fated Costa Concordia cruise ship will go on trial in Italy on Tuesday, facing manslaughter charges over the liner’s tragic sinking which cost 32 lives.
The courtroom drama could involve up to 450 witnesses and 250 plaintiffs, although the actual start of deliberations may have to be postponed because of a lawyers’ strike on the same day.
Schettino, 52, faces three charges for multiple manslaughter, as well as causing environmental damage and abandoning the ship before all the passengers had been evacuated.
He has been dubbed “Captain Coward” by the tabloids but his defense claims he is being scapegoated and the blame for the wreck should be spread more widely, including the company.
Four other crewmembers and a manager from ship owner Costa Crociere who were also suspects have entered plea bargains likely to be formalized at separate court hearings starting on Monday.
They include Roberto Ferrarini, the head of ship owner Costa Crociere’s crisis unit, and Jacob Rusli Bin, the ship’s Indonesian helmsman.
Ferrarini, who was in constant contact with Schettino on the night of the disaster, faces a sentence of two years and 10 months in prison.
Costa Crociere, Europe’s top cruise operator, earlier admitted responsibility as Schettino’s employer and was ordered to pay 1.0 million euros ($1.3 million) in a controversial ruling that has excluded it from criminal proceedings.
Because of the large numbers expected at Schettino’s trial, hearings will be held in a theatre in Grosseto, the city closest to the scene of the accident—the island of Giglio.
Criminal trials in Italy usually last for months or even years and some survivors have complained about the delay in bringing the case to court.
Hearings will also be held on July 17, 18 and 19.