Italian court orders new search of Costa Concordia wreck

ROME Tue Sep 24, 2013 7:45pm BST

The capsized cruise liner Costa Concordia is seen at the end of the ''parbuckling'' operation outside Giglio harbour September 17, 2013. REUTERS/Tony Gentile

The capsized cruise liner Costa Concordia is seen at the end of the ''parbuckling'' operation outside Giglio harbour September 17, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Tony Gentile

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ROME (Reuters) - An Italian court on Tuesday called for a new expert examination of the Costa Concordia cruise liner to seek further evidence related to its sinking, accepting a request from the lawyers of the ship's captain and civil parties.

Last week the Concordia was raised off the rocks where it capsized, opening the way for a new quest for clues.

The Concordia's skipper, Francesco Schettino, has been charged with offences including manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning ship after the 290-metre vessel, carrying more than 4,000 passengers and crew, struck a reef off the island of Giglio and keeled over with the loss of 32 lives on January 13, 2012.

The court in Grosseto, Tuscany, wants experts to pay particular attention to the electrical system of the lifts on the vessel, a legal source told Reuters.

Lawyers for Schettino say emergency generators failed to kick in during the disaster, preventing the lifts from working.

The court has also agreed to further checks on other aspects such as the ship's watertight doors, once the safety of the investigators can be guaranteed.

The 114,500-tonne vessel now sits, upright but two-thirds submerged, on specially constructed platforms just off Giglio while salvage crews prepare for it to be towed away next year to be broken up.

Schettino has admitted that he bears responsibility for the accident as the ship's captain. But he says he is not the only culprit and wants the vessel to be examined for evidence of technical faults that may have contributed to the deaths of the victims.

The call for a new search was backed by other parties including the consumer group Codacons, which is a civil party to the case.

Schettino is the only person on trial after four crew members and an official of the ship's operator, Costa Cruises, were sentenced to terms of up to 34 months in prison after pleading guilty last year.

Costa Cruises, owned by the American-based Carnival Corp, the world's largest cruise operator, itself avoided criminal prosecution by agreeing to pay a 1 million euro ($1.35 million) fine last year. Victims are now seeking damages in a civil case.

The court has been adjourned until October 7.

(Reporting By Silvia Ognibene; writing by Catherine Hornby; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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