What happened to captain of Costa Concordia? Cruise ship disaster explained - and how many people died

The Sinking of the Costa Concordia: Collision at Sea is a new Channel 5 documentary investigating the 2012 tragedy

Channel 5’s latest documentary, Costa Concordia: Collision at Sea, will investigate on of the century’s biggest disasters at sea.

In the late evening of 13 January 2012, a cruise liner off the coast of Tuscany, Italy, capsized after a score of human errors and poor judgement led to the ship crashing into underwater rocks.

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The ship’s hull was torn and water flooded into the vessel, causing an almost immediate blackout and what ensued resulted in the death of 32 people.

In the years which followed, the captain and four other crew members and officials would be tried for their action, or lack of, which resulted in the fatalities.

So, what caused the Costa Concordia disaster, what happened to the captain, and did anyone serve time for the passengers’ deaths? This is what you need to know.

What happened to the Costa Concordia?

The Costa Concordia was a cruise ship which had began a seven-day-tour of Italy when it crashed near the Italian island of Giglio, off the coast of Tuscany.

The ship had been expected to travel from Civitavecchia near Rome to Savona in the North. However, it had diverted from its route in order to get closer to the Giglio, which resulted in the fatal crash.

Salvage team members work at the rock on the side of the Costa Concordia cruise ship near the harbour of Giglio Porto, six months after the disaster

At around 9.45pm, the boat veered too close to the island and crashed into a reef known as the Scole rocks.

The rocks caused a gaping tear in the boat and it soon filled with water, while the crew struggled to steer the vessel back to shore, various errors led to it capsizing and making the evacuation procedure incredibly difficult.

In an investigation into the accident, Italy’s Ministry of Infrastructures and Transports found that the Concordia “was sailing too close to the coastline, in a poorly lit shore area…at an unsafe distance at night time and at high speed (15.5 kts).”

The ship’s captain, Francesco Schettino at court in Debruary 2015 (Picture: Getty)

The crash had not been caused by adverse weather or poor conditions. Instead, reports began to emerge in the days following the captain of the ship had been on the bridge of the ship with a Maldovan dancer whom he was having an extramarital affair with, and had veered too close to land, ina bid to impress her and give her a better view of the island.

The ship’s captain, Fransesco Schettino, denied this had been his motive but admitted he had been having an affair with her, and had been with her at the time.

However, he laid the blame on the ship’s helmsman (the person who steers the ship), who he said failed to act when Schettino gave him orders upon noticing the rocks.

What did the captain say about the shipwreck?

Schettino told how Helmsman Jacob Rusli Bin had failed to follow his directions and that if he had acted immediately, the disaster would have been averted.

However, an Italian Navy Admiral testified in the trial of the ship’s crew that “[the crash] would have happened anyway”.

In a recorded phone call with Costa Crociere’s crisis coordinator, Roberto Ferrarini, Schettino attempted to cover up the crash by claiming the black out caused the crash instead of the other way about.

The boat capsized with other 4,000 passengers and crew on board (Picture: Getty)

He said: “I have made a mess and practically the whole ship is flooding.

“What should I say to the media?… To the port authorities I have said that we had…a blackout.”

Ferrarini was one of five officials and crew members who was later convicted for contributing to the disaster by delaying rescue operations.

Schettino then further delayed notifying the Italian Search and Rescue Authority, and it was a member of the public who had witnessed the capsizing of the boat who notified authorities from the shoreline.

More than one hour after the boat struck the reef, crew began evacuating the 4,000 passengers on lifeboats, but an error had been made when deploying the anchor and this had further exacerbated the boat’s capsize, making it near impossible to lower the lifeboats from the one side of the vessel.

The cruise liner was not erected from the sea until over three years later (Picture: Getty)

Additionally, the captain did not carry out the rule of ensuring all passengers are off the boat before him, and instead boarded a lifeboat while other traumatised and injured passengers waited on the doomed ship.

Later, he would testify that he fell onto a lifeboat when the ship was capsizing, but the trial in 2015 did not buy into his excuse.

During the rescue mission, a coast guard member angrily told him on the phone to “Get back on board, damn it!”, which became the catchphrase synonymous with the disaster.

Where is the Costa Concordia captain now?

In 2015, a court found Schettino guilty of manslaughter, causing a shipwreck, abandoning ship before passengers and crew were evacuated and lying to authorities about the disaster. He was sentenced to 16 years in prison.

He remains incarcerated in a prison just outside of Rome, where he is expected to stay until he is around 80 years old.

The other crew and officials who were found guilty are Ferrarini and Rusli Bin, Cabin Service Director Manrico Giampedroni, First Officer Ciro Ambrosio and Third Officer Silvia Coronica.

When is Channel 5’s Costa Concordia documentary on TV?

The Sinking of the Costa Concordia: Collision at Sea airs on Channel 4 across two consecutive nights, at 9pm on Tuesday 7 December and Wednesday 8 December.