Costa Crociera captain released on house arrest

The death toll from the shipwreck off the Tuscan island of Giglio north of Rome has risen to 11, following the discovery of a further five bodies during the afternoon of 17 January, four days after the Costa Concordia ran aground some 150-m from shore.

The search for a further 23 people was suspended on 18 January because of a further shift in the position of the wreck, making it dangerous for the rescue teams to continue work.

On 17 January the prefecture of Grosseto on the Italian mainland released the names of the 17 women and 11 men still unaccounted for, which include the five bodies found on 17 January – four men and one woman – who have yet to be identified.

An initial investigation by the Italian coast guard has found that the evacuation process would have been much less hazardous and lives could have been saved if the captain had given the order to abandon ship immediately. Instead Francesco Schettino procrastinated for 75 minutes to give the order.

According to testimony from ten officers on the Concordia, published in the Italian press, the officers said that for the first 40 minutes after the accident the liner stayed reasonably upright but by the time the evacuation order came the vessel was listing dangerously. As a result, the subsequent launching of lifeboats was made perilous, with almost half of them unusable.

On orders from the investigating magistrate in Grosseto, the captain has now been released from prison but will be under house arrest in his home town of Meta di Sorrento. It is thought that one of the motives for his release is that the magistrate, Valeria Montesarchio, has ruled that there is no danger now that Schettino will flee the country, as was feared immediately after the sinking. The other charge which put him in custody immediately after the shipwreck was the possibility that he would tamper with evidence if he were free. This is clearly no longer possible.

Currently Schettino is facing multiple charges of manslaughter, shipwreck and abandoning his ship.