Trial set for dive boat captain in California’s worst modern maritime disaster
A U.S. federal jury ordered the captain of the freighter that sank the Costa Concordia to pay $8 million to a couple whose home was destroyed by the tragedy.
The trial is the first of its kind in the U.S. involving a ship captain charged in a passenger liner disaster that killed 32 people last year.
An Italian court ordered four other defendants to pay $2 million in a related case, while a third was given a four-month jail sentence for his role in the calamity.
Among the defendants charged in the ship’s sinking was the wealthy tycoon and cruise ship operator, Francesco Schettino, whose private-equity-fund company was the largest owner and operator of Costa Cruises, the company that owned the cruise liner.
Schettino, a relative of Italian billionaire Silvio Berlusconi, told a television program last year that the ship sank by design. But investigators believe that a storm might have caused the ship to drift off its course, and that the disaster was the result of human error and design flaws.
Schettino, the defendant in the trial, could be sentenced to seven years in prison if convicted on charges that include homicide, causing a shipwreck, negligence, theft and money laundering. He has denied wrongdoing.
The three men charged in the original case are:
• Francesco Schettino, the owner and operator of the Costa Concordia, which sank off the Tuscan island of Giglio in January 2012.
• Marco Bellomo, the captain of the Concordia.
• Francesco Passero, the captain of the Costa Allegra, which struck a rock in 2016 near a popular resort in Venice, Italy.
Schettino was the only defendant to spend any time in prison in the case, while the other two are not facing any punishment.
A lawyer for Passero said Wednesday that he plans to appeal the sentence.
“Passero has no need to hide or to flee,” lawyer Marco Ferrari said in a statement. “The prosecution is putting him in front of a judge and it is the judge who will decide what sentence to impose.”
Schettino took responsibility for the accident and denied any knowledge of the ship’s “dangerous and disconcerting” design that contributed to it.
“I will live with the consequences for