Captain Francesco Schettino was detained yesterday on suspicion of multiple manslaughter after the boat ran aground off the Tuscan coast.
Officials have suggested that he left the boat before all of the passengers were off.
But Schettino has told reporters that he was the last to leave the boat and said rocks had not been detected by the vessel’s navigation system.
Unfortunately, the fast tilting of the vessel interrupted the evacuation by the use of lifeboats. That’s when events started escalating and that required the Italian coast guard to intervene, this and the rescue operations were handed over to the authorities.
Chief executive of Costa Cruises, Gianni Onorato
He said: “What happened is that while we were moving with a tourist navigation system, as you can see by the rip (in the ship) there was a lateral rock projection.
“Even though we were sailing along the coast with the tourist navigation system, I firmly believe that the rocks were not detected as the ship was not heading forward but sideways as if underwater there was this rock projection.
“I don’t know if it was detected or not but on the nautical chart it was marked just as water at some 100-150m from the rocks and we were about 300m from the shore, more or less.
“We shouldn’t have had this contact.”
When he was asked who was the last to abandon ship he replied: “We were the last to leave the ship.”
The captain’s account was refuted however by prosecutor Francesco Verusio.
Asked whether Schettino had fled before all of the passengers had left the vessel, Mr Verusio replied: “Unfortunately, I must confirm that circumstance.”
Travel writer Simon Calder
The accusation was supported by several passenger accounts.
Ophelie Gondelle and David Du Pays of Marseille, said they saw the captain in a lifeboat, covered by a blanket, well before all the passengers were off.
“The commander left before and was on the dock before everyone was off,” said Ms Gondelle, 28, a French military officer.
“Normally the commander should leave at the end,” said Mr Du Pays, a police officer who said he helped an injured passenger to a rescue boat.
But the captain’s lawyer hit back at the accusations claiming that the skipper’s skilful actions had averted an even more serious disaster.
Bruno Leporatti said: “My client understands the reasons why he has been detained but as his legal representative I would to like to say that several hundred people owe their lives to the skill of the commander of the Costa Concordia.”
According to the Italian navigation code, a captain who abandons a ship in danger can face up to 12 years in prison.