GROSSETO, Italy - A crew member of the shipwrecked Costa Concordia testified Monday that the nautical charts aboard the doomed ship were perfectly adequate to navigate the liner along its planned route, disputing claims by the captain on trial for the deaths of 32 people.
First Deck Officer Giovanni Iaccarino was the first witness called by the prosecution in the case against Capt. Francesco Schettino, who is accused of manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning the ship before everyone was off. He faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
Schettino is accused of taking the Concordia off its planned route on Jan. 13. 2012 and bringing it closer to the island of Giglio for so-called "tourist navigation" — a publicity-generating manoeuvr to give passengers a close-up view of the Tuscan island.
Schettino has said the navigational charts on board didn't show the "Scole" reef off Giglio, which sliced a 70-meter (230-foot) gash in the ship's hull. After the grounding, the ship listed, drifted and eventually capsized off Giglio's port.
Iaccarino was asked by one of the lawyers representing civil parties to the case if the charts on board the ship were adequate.
"Yes, for a half-mile" away, he said. The reef was about a quarter-mile from shore.
A court-ordered analysis of the dynamics of the shipwreck made clear that the charts on board weren't adequate for the close-to-shore manoeuvr Schettino allegedly had ordered. It quoted one of the Concordia's navigation chiefs as expressing concern that the charts weren't detailed enough, even though he plotted the revised course anyway.
Iaccarino said he was in a crewmate's cabin using his Playstation when the ship ran aground. He said he ran to the bridge to discover the electronic panels all registering alarms that the ship had lost propulsion, but was surprised at the level of "calm" on the bridge.
"We told the bridge that everything was out of service but it didn't seem that they realized the gravity of the situation," he said.
Passengers have described a delayed and frantic evacuation, and the court-ordered analysis — which used data and voice recorders — showed that Schettino failed to grasp for 45 minutes repeated reports from his crew that his ship was flooding and its motors had died.
The evacuation order wasn't issued for an hour after the initial grounding, too late for many of the lifeboats to be lowered.
Iaccarino said nothing critical to the ship's safety malfunctioned that night, but that the motors and water pumps were useless once the electricity went out. He said within about 10 minutes of the grounding, he knew the ship would go down — and that Schettino wasn't in a position to lead.
"He was completely lost," he said. "He was out of his routine mental state. He was under shock. He wasn't the person I knew."
Schettino has said he saved lives by guiding the ship closer to port. His lawyers successfully asked the court to order an inspection of the ship, arguing that fault also lies with the cruise company, Costa Concordia, SpA, a unit of Miami-based Carnival Corp.
In separate proceedings, five other Costa employees were allowed to make plea bargains in exchange for lenient sentences.
Winfield reported from Rome.