— The Italian captain of the Costa Concordia cruise ship that capsized six months ago, killing 32 people, told TODAY he is sorry for the accident but feels not all of the blame should fall on him.
In his first American television interview since the disaster occurred on Jan. 13, Francesco Schettino told NBC’s Michelle Kosinski that the disaster was a chain of unfortunate errors and possible mechanical failure. Schettino has been charged with multiple manslaughter, causing the accident and abandoning ship.
“At the end of the story it is very easy to find a scapegoat or the person that we want to blame for the accident,’’ Schettino said. “The captain went insane and let’s finish the story. I take my responsibility, of course, as a gentleman, as a man, as a captain, I take my responsibility.
“I am not blaming nobody. I am clear with my conscience.”
The Naples-born captain also expressed regret for the loss of life in the wreck. Schettino emphasized that he was not paid for the interview with NBC and is speaking out to tell the truth, not to justify his actions.
“No one can imagine again the pain that you may experience,’’ he said. “If you say just simply sorry, sorry is not the term for the accident, and you say sorry.’’
Schettino has come under fire from investigators, who believe he recklessly brought the cruise ship too close to the shoreline off the Italian island of Giglio before it ran aground and overturned. He also abandoned the ship on a lifeboat before the 4,200 passengers and crew members had been evacuated. Schettino believes that it may have been a mechanical failure that caused him to steer the ship too close to the shore and smash into the rocks.
“Something inside that compass went wrong,’’ he said. “The rock was marked on the charts but the depth of the water on the charts was more than in the reality it is.’’
He claims that his decision to turn the ship closer to land actually saved lives rather than caused the wreck.
“Otherwise we would have collided straight bounce on the rocks and that case there really would die thousands of persons,’’ he said.
Schettino also has been criticized for delaying the evacuation and not immediately conveying the seriousness of the situation. He did not sound the abandon ship alarm for nearly an hour after hitting the rocks and initially told authorities he thought the problem was just a power outage.
“My problem was to control the panic,’’ he said. “First of all, we were not really aware of the extent of the damage after hitting the rocks.’’
He also denied that he abandoned ship, saying the tilting of the vessel threw him into a lifeboat while he was helping people. Schettino added that he tried to persuade another boat to bring him back.
Meanwhile, some of the passengers took their chances by leaping into the cold sea and trying to swim to shore. Schettino believes the passengers only had to swim a short distance because of his actions.
“Yes some swam, luckily 20 meters — thanks to somebody that decide to anchor the ship there!’’ he said.
In addition to Schettino, officials of Costa Cruises, the ship’s owner, along with other officers on the ship are under investigation.