- Wife described Francesco Schettino as a ‘maestro’ who was ‘decisive, stable and lucid’
- Interview in Italian magazine Oggi claims media are blaming ‘arrogant’ husband
- Prosecutor calls for investigation to focus on Costa Cruises safety procedures
- Body of 16th victim, a woman who was wearing life-jacket, pulled from wreck this morning
- Search divers say majority of victims have been discovered at emergency meeting points in the vessel
Last updated at 5:06 PM on 24th January 2012
The wife of ‘Captain Coward’ Francesco Schettino has defended her husband in an Italian magazine interview, claiming: ‘He is not a monster.’
Fabiola Russo spoke out as calls increased for prosecutors to widen their probe into the Costa Concordia luxury liner disaster, in which 16 people have been confirmed dead and another 16 people still are missing.
In an interview with glossy Italian weekly Oggi, she said there was a witch-hunt against her husband – who is under investigation for multiple manslaughter, abandoning ship and causing a ship wreck.
Scroll down for video
Witch-hunt: Fabiola Russo, wife of Costa Concordia captain Francesco
Schettino (right), claimed the media were blaming her husband for the cruise
liner disaster in an interview in Oggi magazine
Schettino is currently under house arrest following the disaster which happened earlier this month, after he recklessly steered his 114,000 ton ship, carrying more than 4,000 passengers and crew, on to rocks close to the island of Giglio in a ‘sail by’ salute to impress a crew member.
Mrs Russo, who lives with Schettino and their 17-year-old daughter in Meta di Sorrento near Naples, said: ‘My husband is not a monster. He was always the go to guy for the crew.
‘I am the wife of a seaman, so I am used to doing things on my own. I tackle situations and I resolve them.
‘This is a witch hunt, everyone is out to get my husband. The media has made out he is to blame.
‘He loves ships, he knows all about
them and has never stopped studying them, to learn what they are capable
of and what their limits are.
didn’t stop at just sailing ships. That’s why for his crew he was
always the go to man, a maestro. He is decisive, stable and lucid, he
analyses situations, understands them and then acts.
Death trap: Sea water flows into the Costa Concordia with rope and other debris strewn around inside this corridor
Recovery: Oil workers climb in board the cruise ship as salvage crews begin preparations to pump thousands of tonnes of fuel from the vessel
Stricken: Salvage workers start pumping from a pontoon near the ship, off the coast of Giglio, Tuscany
‘At times Francesco seems arrogant because he puts himself above the people he is speaking to and often tells them to shut up.
wasn’t in charge of the Concordia by chance, he knows how to do his job
but sometimes even those who know how to do their job can make mistakes
– that’s if he did make a mistake.’
Extracts from the interview were also posted on Oggi’s website along with a gallery of photographs provided by Fabiola, 48, among them a series of pictures showing her husband giving a safety demonstration when he was a captain with Renaissance cruise lines in 2000.
Others showed him at a desk in his cabin on another ship, or where was sat on a lifeboat of a tanker while working for American petrol giants Sunoco.
Amazingly she also revealed how they had once been fined for sailing too close to the shore in their sailing boat and added: ‘What we really like is canoeing and to row together you need to be in harmony and my husband and I are.’
It comes as Beniamino Deidda, prosecutor general of Tuscany, the Italian region Giglio is in, called for attention in the investigation to also focus on the Concordia’s owners Costa Cruises.
Damage: A massive rent is visible in the hull of the cruise ship as workers climb around it
Search: Italian Navy divers prepare to go into the vessel again to look for missing passengers
Investigation: Workers climb up a rope ladder on to the cruise ship. Divers found the body of the 16th victim earlier today
He said: ‘For the time being the main
focus of attention is the captain, who it has been shown was tragically
inadequate but who chose him?
lifeboats did not lower properly, the crew didn’t know what to do, they
were unprepared in dealing with an emergency, wrong orders were given
such as being told to return to cabins.
confusion that has emerged shows that there was an incredible lack of
attention to safety procedures. Safety should have been rehearsed
‘You cannot blame all of this carelessness on the conduct of the captain. That’s why this investigation cannot exclude others.’
the death toll rose to 16 as the body of a woman was found on deck
three of the Concordia after a hole had once again been blown into the
side of the ship.
The victim was found with a life jacket and her body was taken to a mortuary on the mainland.
Video: Divers recover 16th body
BRAVING THE DEBRIS-CHOKED CORRIDORS OF THE CONCORDIA
The chaos in the bowels of the shipwrecked Costa Concordia is the worst Fabio Paoletti, a specialist cave diver, has ever seen.
The 43-year-old has pulled more than a few decomposing bodies from shipwrecked trawlers over the years, but has never had to tackle anything close to the size of the vast 17-deck Concordia.
He said: ‘It is always scary, every time I go down to search the wreck, the unknown is frightening.
‘Making our way through the debris is difficult and tiring. Visibility ranges from 30 inches to four inches, and we have to check everything – floating tablecloths, discarded clothes – for bodies.’
‘Scary’: Divers working in teams spend 50 minutes at a time searching the labyrinthine corridors of the Costa Concordia for survivors and victims
Divers work together in pairs for security reasons as they search the ship at a painstakingly slow pace, often having to squeeze into confined areas where the risk of becoming trapped is great.
They swim through the corridors and rooms in a zig-zag movement to make sure they cover every area.
Mr Paoletti said: ‘We go down for 50 minutes at a time, with three oxygen tanks strapped to us, and leave one or two along the way in case we start to run out of air.
‘If we’re not back in that time, our back up races to find us.
‘One of the biggest risks is that you get tangled up in electrical cables snaking in the water.’
The Concordia, which boasted four swimming pools, a spa, five restaurants, 13 bars, and an array of entertainment and shopping facilities, lurched on to its side when it hit rocks off the Tuscan coast on Friday, January 13.
So far, 16 people have been confirmed dead.
Painstaking: A diver swims through a completely submerged part of the shipwreck. Teams of searchers have to zig-zag to make sure they cover entire rooms
While the search for survivors among the 16 still missing officially continues, Mr Paoletti said he was not hopeful they could still be alive.
‘If there was by a slim chance anyone down there knocking or calling out for help, we would hear it, but it’s unlikely,’ he said.
‘Sometimes we think we’ve found a body, but it can just be a bundle, a jacket and a pair of glasses.’
The pairs use two head lamps to scour the freezing water and navigate an obstacle course of tables and chairs, as well as items left by terrified passengers as they rushed to evacuate.
The ship had 4,229 people on board from more than 60 countries when it hit rocks. The bodies, wearing life-jackets, have largely been found at emergency meeting points.