Costa Concordia captain no more under house arrest

Costa Concordia captain Francesco Schettino has been directed not to leave his hometown during the criminal investigation.

Updated: Jul 06, 2012, 11:02 AM IST

Zeenews Bureau

Rome: An Italian judge on Thursday released Costa Concordia captain Francesco Schettino from house arrest.

However, Schettino has been directed not to leave his hometown near Naples during the criminal investigation.

The captain is accused of manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning the liner while many passengers and crew were still aboard. Judge Valeria Montesarchio issued the written decision about his detention.

At least 30 people died when the luxury liner rammed into a reef close to tiny Giglio island on the night of January 13.

Costa Crociere SpA, the cruise company, contends that Schettino steered the vessel too close to shore. Prosecutors suspect Schettino manoeuvred the ship perilously close to the tourist and fishing island in a publicity stunt.

Schettino has insisted that the reef wasn`t on the ship`s navigational charts, even though the rocky reef jutting from the sea is a landmark in the area. In a written memo to his lawyers, the captain defended his handling of the Concordia after the collision, the Italian news agency ANSA reported, citing a document that will be presented on an Italian TV show later Thursday night.

In the memo, the captain contended that he is no coward and credits what he says was his quick and lucid reaction for preventing what he said would have been greater loss of life, ANSA said.

Schettino has previously said he guided the vessel, which quickly took on water and began listing badly right after impact, toward the island`s port to make evacuation easier. In the memo he reportedly claims to have quickly steered the ship away from further harm "out of pure instinct”.

The captain also said he wrestled with the decision "to evacuate or not" the ship before it was near the port and decided against an immediate evacuation.

After the ship listed so badly it was almost on one side, lifeboats on the gashed side could no longer be lowered. Some of the 4,200 passengers and crew members aboard jumped into the sea to swim to the island, while others were rescued by helicopter.

In the memo, Schettino reportedly says he`s "comforted" by the information recorded on the so-called black-box. Earlier this week, an Italian newspaper reported that that data recorder had not worked properly in the days before the collision and had been scheduled for repair on January 14, when the Concordia was supposed to have docked at an Italian port farther north.

What role a malfunctioning data recorder might have played in tragedy is unclear.

(With Agency inputs)