by ALISON LEVIER Staff Writer
Just off the coast of Italy on Friday, January 13, the Costa Concordia cruise ship crashed, and forced the 4,200 people on the boat to abandon ship, killing 17 people with 15 people still missing. Sailing very close to land, the ship hit rocks from a reef. Just off the coast of Tuscany. The ship was traveling at 15 knots as it sailed within 150 yards of the coast, too fast for such a delicate operation says the ship’s third officer, Silvia Coronica. Although the exact cause of the crash is unknown, the blame is being placed on the captain, Francesco Schettino, 52, who immediately boarded a lifeboat and abandoned his ship, and all his passengers, in a state of distress. Schettino is making claims that he “had no intention of escaping,” and “tripped and found” himself aboard one of the safety boats. Many people are questioning the accuracy of his claims. “And with 100 people still on board, you abandon ship, [expletive]?” says an Italian Port Authority officer of the accident. Freshman Anne Ballman says, “I think he is completely at fault for the accident. Even if he thought he was going to die, he should have stayed on the ship to help his passengers and crew.” A cook from the ship, Rogelio Barista, told a Filipino television station that the captain ordered himself, along with another female passenger, dinner from the ship’s kitchen after the ship hit the rocks. “We wondered what was going on. …At that time, we really felt something was wrong. …The stuff in the kitchen was falling off shelves and we realized how grave the situation was,” says Barista. The ship hit the rocks at 9:41 p.m., and Schettino had his order in by 10:30, less than an hour later. While most are skeptical and uncertain about the situation, Schettino gains defense from his borther-in-law, Maurilio Russo, who says, “It could have been worse,” and that “he was not running away, he came down (from the ship) to survey the damage.” Fabiola Russo, wife of Schettino, says that her husband is not the “monster” that has been portrayed by the media these past few weeks. “My husband is at the center of an unprecedented global media storm. I cannot think of any other naval or air tragedy in which the responsible party was treated with such violence. This is a man hunt, people are looking for the scapegoat, a monster. It’s shameful,” says Russo, adding that it was a “mistake.” “I wouldn’t blame him for the accident. Maybe he really did fall into the boat; no one can be sure of either scenario,” says an anonymous source. Schettino is currently under house arrest, and faces charges of causing the shipwreck, as well as several cases of manslaughter from those who died in the accident.