Phone call distracted Costa Concordia captain

Francesco Schettino described the collision as a "banal accident" in which "destiny" played a role.

Rome: The captain of the shipwrecked Costa Concordia has said in an interview that he was distracted by a phone conversation shortly before the cruise liner crashed into a reef off an Italian island and capsized, killing 32 people.

Francesco Schettino described the collision to private Italian TV channel Canale 5 yesterday as a "banal accident" in which "destiny" played a role.

An Italian judge last week lifted Schettino`s house arrest order, but said he must remain in his hometown near Naples during a criminal investigation in which he is accused of manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning the liner while many passengers and crew were still aboard.

Prosecutors have alleged that the Concordia cruised too close to the island in a publicity stunt, and shortly before it rammed the reef Schettino was on the phone with a retired sea captain on Giglio.

"I blame myself for being distracted," Schettino said when asked about the phone call.

Schettino yesterday appeared to want to lessen his role, insisting that another official, and not he, was at the helm of the ship at the moment it rammed the reef.

"At that moment, I went up to the bridge. I ordered the navigation to be manual, and I didn`t have the command. The navigation was being directed by a (lower) official," Schettino said.

"This is a banal accident in which destiny found space right in the interaction among human beings," Schettino added, apparently referring to the various officials on the bridge involved in the manoeuvre.

He said that for a captain of a ship, "there is no measure of sorrow" for losing a vessel. However, he said "it`s much less" painful than losing a child, a reference to a young Italian girl who was among the dead.

A court hearing later this month in Tuscany on evidence in the case, including information from the ship`s "black box" data recorder, could shed light on what went wrong and on who or what is to blame, and likely will figure in a judge`s decision on whether Schettino should be ordered to stand trial.


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