Now that the cruise ship Costa Concordia is upright and soon to be towed away from where it sank in 2012, the world's eyes turn from the technical drama of the salvage operation to the legal drama in the courtroom.
Capt. Francesco Schettino, who was in charge of the Costa Concordia when it hit a rock and ran aground in an accident that killed 32 people, is currently on trial for manslaughter and abandoning ship.
In July, four crewmembers and one shoreside employee were convicted of manslaughter and other charges related to the incident. They all received sentences of less than three years. But, if convicted, Schettino faces up to 20 years in prison.
Today at Schettino's trial in Grosseto, Italy, the ship's former hotel director, Manrico Giampedroni, testified that Schettino failed to contact him during the shipwreck, even though it was Giamopedroni's responsibility to supervise passenger evacuation, UPI reports.
And in further damaging testimony, Robert Ferrarini, leader of a crisis unit established to handle the incident, told the court that Schettino asked him say that a blackout on the ship caused the collision.
Ferrarini was also to stand trial for his part in the disaster but accepted a plea bargain before proceedings began and negotiated a 26-month suspended sentence, the Daily Mail reports.
The allegation of an attempted cover-up is not the only bizarre twist in the unfolding legal drama. In early March, Jacob Rusil Bin, the Indonesian helmsman who was steering the Costa Concordia the night it crashed, failed to turn up at Schettino's trial to give evidence. His whereabouts were unknown until he was discovered by Interpol officers outside Jakarta, Indonesia, last week.
Bin had previously plead guilty to charges of manslaughter, negligence and causing a shipwreck, for which he received a 20-month suspended sentence. It's not yet clear whether he will be forced to take the stand in Schettino's trial, Yachting and Boating World reports.
Between a missing witness, tales of conspiracy and an unsympathetic defendant — who let's not forget claims not to have abandoned ship, but rather to have just conveniently fallen into a lifeboat as the ship tipped — this trial has the makings of a riveting legal drama. I am staying tuned for the next installment.
Costa Concordia crew convictions
Consuming Costa Concordia coverage