Francesco Schettino, the captain in charge of the Costa Concordia cruise ship when it capsized, has reportedly claimed he abandoned ship by accident – having fallen into a lifeboat.
Schettino appeared in court yesterday, accused of manslaughter and failing to lead the rescue procedure.
More from GlobalPost: Costa Concordia captain accused of abandoning ship (AUDIO)
According to Italian newspaper reports, he admitted to the judge that he caused the crash by sailing too close to shore.
However, he denied abandoning passengers aboard the stricken vessel.
The Guardian translated La Repubblica's report:
"The passengers were pouring on to the decks, taking the lifeboats by assault," the newspaper quoted him as telling a judge during a hearing to determine whether he should be held in custody on charges of manslaughter and abandoning ship.
"I didn't even have a life jacket because I had given it to one of the passengers. I was trying to get people to get into the boats in an orderly fashion. Suddenly, since the ship was at a 60 to 70 degree angle, I tripped and I ended up in one of the boats. That's how I found myself in the lifeboat," said Schettino.
"Suspended there, I was unable to lower the boat into the sea, because the space was blocked by other boats in the water."
Skeptical, La Repubblica pointed out that two other senior officials were also aboard the same lifeboat. "Did they stumble too?" the paper asked.
Schettino's account follows the release of a seemingly damning recording of his conversation with a coast guard, who furiously ordered the captain to return to his vessel after discovering that he left the ship with passengers still aboard.
In his hearing yesterday, Schettino apparently confirmed that he deliberately turned the Concordia toward shore in order to greet a retired colleague, with whom he was on the phone at the time. Despite knowing the waters well and having made the maneuver "three or four times" before, Schettino said, he accidentally steered into water that was too shallow.
The rescue effort was suspended earlier today due to bad weather. Eleven bodies have been recovered so far; another 20 people are still missing.
Italian officials released the list of the missing on Wednesday. The list includes passengers and crew from Italy, Germany, France, the United States, India and Peru.
More from GlobalPost: Bad weather forces rescue teams to suspend Costa Concordia search