Dramatic audio has emerged of an irate Italian Coast Guard officer ordering the captain of the cruise ship Costa Concordia to “get back on board!” as the stricken vessel lay crippled off the coast of Tuscany on Friday night.
As NPR’s Sylvia Poggioli reports, in the telephone call Coast Guard Capt. Gregorio De Falco shouts as he accuses Costa Concordia Capt. Francesco Schettino of abandoning his ship. Schettino was apparently sitting in a row boat at the time.
“You’ve abandoned ship! I’m in charge now,” De Falco rages. “Go back and report to me how many passengers [are still on board] and what they need. … Perhaps you saved yourself from the sea, but I’ll make you pay for this, damn it!”
Schettino can be heard trying to refuse the order. “You don’t understand, it’s dark here. Can’t see anything,” he says.
“What is it, you want to go home Schettino?” De Falco spits out. “It’s dark and you want to go home?”
According to The Associated Press, De Falco goes on to tell the reluctant captain to “get on that prow of the boat using the pilot ladder and tell me what can be done, how many people there are and what their needs are. Now!”
But, the wire service adds, it’s unclear whether Schettino obeyed.
Today, the cruise ship captain is being held in jail. He’s accused of manslaughter. At least 11 people are known to have died. Another 24 are said to be missing. More than 4,200 passengers and crew were on board when the ship hit rocks and listed on its side. Passengers have described a scene of chaos.