'Straight out of GQ,' shipwreck captain faces survivors

Costa Concordia captain in court
Costa Concordia captain in court

    JUST WATCHED

    Costa Concordia captain in court

MUST WATCH

Costa Concordia captain in court 02:00

Story highlights

  • Lawyer for passengers compares ex-captain's suit to fashion magazine attire
  • Francesco Schettino is accused of manslaughter, abandoning ship, causing shipwreck
  • A judge will decide what's admissible at a trial; three others being investigated are in court
  • Schettino was captain of the Costa Concordia when it ran aground in January, killing 32

Described by one lawyer Monday as looking "like he walked straight out of a GQ magazine," the ex-captain of a shipwrecked cruise liner faced about a dozen of the survivors he's accused of abandoning.

It was the first time Francesco Schettino, 52, had faced survivors since the luxury ship Costa Concordia ran aground in January, killing at least 32 people.

Schettino, 52, wore a black suit and tie at the preliminary hearing, which was held inside a theater in the Tuscan town of Grosseto. Accompanied by lawyers and technical consultants working on his behalf, the embattled former captain arrived 20 minutes early.

"He looked like he walked straight out of a GQ magazine," said John Arthur Eaves, an American lawyer who is representing 150 of the passengers.

Schettino faces allegations of manslaughter, causing a shipwreck, abandoning ship, failing to report an accident to the coast guard and destroying a natural habitat. The ship, carrying 3,200 passengers and 1,000 crew members, turned on its side after striking rocks off the Italian island of Giglio on January 13.

Concordia captain: Blames himself, others
Concordia captain: Blames himself, others

    JUST WATCHED

    Concordia captain: Blames himself, others

MUST WATCH

Concordia captain: Blames himself, others 02:23
PLAY VIDEO
Passenger: Told to ignore emergency drill
Passenger: Told to ignore emergency drill

    JUST WATCHED

    Passenger: Told to ignore emergency drill

MUST WATCH

Passenger: Told to ignore emergency drill 04:03
PLAY VIDEO
Costa Concordia survivors recall disaster
Costa Concordia survivors recall disaster

    JUST WATCHED

    Costa Concordia survivors recall disaster

MUST WATCH

Costa Concordia survivors recall disaster 04:38
PLAY VIDEO

According to passengers' accounts, chaos ensued on the night of the shipwreck, as guests rushed to fill lifeboats and escape. Some crew members helped passengers and then jumped overboard, passengers said; remaining crew members seemed helpless to handle the melee.

Related story: Port Authority to captain: 'Get on board damn it!'

Like all preliminary hearings in Italian courts, Monday's hearing was closed to the news media. But eventually, reports about the hearing made their way out of the theater.

One survivor approached Schettino at the hearing, saying he hoped the "truth would come out soon." The captain shook the man's hand and replied, "Yes, the truth must be ascertained," Italian media reported.

During the hearing, Schettino was seated on the theater stage with eight other defendants under investigation in the case, including his second in command, Ciro Ambrosio, officer Salvatore Ursino and Roberto Ferrarini, the head of the Costa Cruises fleet.

Also in attendance were about 12 former passengers, some of whom contributed to the theatrical theme outside the hall, known as Teatro Moderno. Passengers turned the area around the theater into a stage for impromptu news conferences for an international group of about 150 journalists.

Several German passengers said German newspapers had flown them to Grosseto.

Dozens of police patrolled the area. Schettino's lawyer, Paolo Bastianini, told CNN his client had received death threats.

The case centers on several questions, including why it allegedly took Schettino more than an hour to issue an order to abandon ship and why he allegedly left the vessel before all passengers had abandoned it.

Related story: Luxury cruise turns into nightmare

Retired Capt. Fredrik J. van Wijnen, a friend of Schettino's and a representative of the Confederation of European Shipmasters' Associations, told reporters that Schettino felt terrible for the loss of life.

Though the captain made a mistake by coming too close to Giglio, his maneuvers after the accident saved thousands of lives, van Wijnen told CNN.

Schettino, who was released from house arrest in July, was fired last week by the Costa Crociere parent company, Italy's official ANSA news agency reported.

He has said that he was wrongfully fired and that his actions prevented additional deaths.

During the hearing, which is expected to last up to 10 days, a judge is expected to determine what evidence is admissible for an eventual trial, including the on-board ship data recorder.

An attorney for Schettino raised objections about an expert and asked that the inquiry be extended while he was brought in from Jakarta, but the request was denied.

Efforts to secure the wreckage are expected to be completed within 10 days, ANSA reported.

The next phase will involve putting floating platforms inside the half-sunken ship.

Salvagers plan to remove the wreckage by summer, it said.

      CNN Recommends

    • pkg clancy north korea nuclear dreams_00002004.jpg

      North Korea nuclear dream video

      As "We are the World" plays, a video shows what looks like a nuclear attack on the U.S. Jim Clancy reports on a bizarre video from North Korea.
    • Photos: Faces of the world

      Photojournalist Alison Wright travelled the world to capture its many faces in her latest book, "Face to Face: Portraits of the Human Spirit."
    • pkg rivers uk football match fixing_00005026.jpg

      How to fix a soccer match

      Europol claims 380 soccer matches, including top level ones, were fixed - as the scandal widens, CNN's Dan Rivers looks at how it's done.
    • No Eiffel Towers, Statues of Liberties, Mt. Rushmores, Taj Mahals, Aussie koalas or Chairman Maos.

      15 biggest souvenir-buying no-no's

      It's an essential part of any trip, an activity we all take part in. Yet almost none of us are any good at it. Souvenir buying is too often an obligatory slog.