Exactly 10 years ago, the sinking of a cruise ship on a small Italian island left the world in shock and took the lives of 32 people.
It was the night of January 13, 2012 when the Costa Concordia, after a careless maneuver carried out by her captain, crashed into the rocks of the island of Giglio, in the region of Tuscany, and toppled sideways into the sea.
The tense rescue of the thousands of people on board would make famous two individuals directly linked to the relief operations: the captain of the ship, Francesco Schettino, and the officer of the Port Authority Gregorio De Falco.
In a famous phone call that night, De Falco told Schettino a phrase he still remembers today, “Vada a board, cazzo,” or “Get aboard, damn you,” an order that was ignored by the captain, later dubbed “Captain Coward”.
Ten years after the tragedy, Schettino and De Falco’s lives followed different paths. See where each one is:
Now 61 years old, the commander was found solely responsible for the shipwreck and was sentenced by the Supreme Court, in May 2017, to 16 years and one month in prison in a closed regime.
According to the ruling, Schettino kept the Costa Concordia on a “totally inappropriate” route and speed, with the aim of making a “salute to the island of Giglio”, a common practice on cruise ships.
However, the ocean liner got too close to the rocks and ended up tipping over. According to the court, Schettino failed to observe the “level of diligence, prudence and expertise required”.
Furthermore, the judges concluded that the captain must have raised the alarm at 10 pm at the latest, that is, when he was informed to the control cabin that the electric motors area was flooded.
However, the emergency was only declared by Schettino at 22:33, when the ship was already starting to tilt and after several calls from the captain to the Port Authority stating that the Costa Concordia was still capable of sailing.
“The delay in warning and preparing the lifeboats had a clear effect” on the deaths of 32 people, according to the Supreme Court. Because of the commander, the judges said, many individuals had “absolutely dramatic and unspeakable experiences.”
Finally, the court further ruled that the captain was “conscious” when leaving the ship that there were passengers on board. During the trial, Schettino denied having run away and even cried at a hearing, claiming that a part of himself “also died” on the night of January 13, 2012.
The captain was sentenced to 10 years in prison for multiple injuries and multiple manslaughter, five years for culpable shipwreck, one year for abandoning ship and incapable persons, and one month for failing to properly notify the Port Authority.
Schettino is serving his sentence at the Rebibbia penitentiary in Rome.
The other character in that phone call, Gregorio De Falco, is 56 years old and remained in his post of commander of the Port Authority in Santa Margherita Ligure until September 2014, when he was transferred to administrative duties.
At the time, De Falco complained about the move and said he was “disappointed” with the decision of his superiors. In January 2018, however, the military announced his candidacy for the Senate by the anti-system 5 Star Movement (M5S) party, which at that time led the electorate’s preference with a speech that broke with traditional politics.
De Falco was eventually elected senator for Tuscany in March 2018, but his M5S history would be short-lived. At the end of the same year, he was expelled from the party for having voted against a decree by then Minister of the Interior, Matteo Salvini, which abolished permission to stay in Italy for humanitarian reasons and made it difficult for rescue NGOs to work in the Mediterranean Sea.
The former commander of the Port Authority has the defense of aid and reception of refugees and forced migrants as one of his main banners and accused the Salvini administration of criminalizing humanitarian entities to divert attention from other problems in the country.
“Criminalizing someone helps to find a common goal. That’s how it’s done in war. Soldiers are motivated, troops are motivated, people are motivated, if there is a common objective, which is the migrant. It’s all his fault. . But how, if there are only 40 people at sea?”, said De Falco in an interview with ANSA in 2019.
And the ship?
The Costa Concordia was not removed from the island of Giglio until two and a half years after the accident, thanks to a gigantic operation to put her back on her axis and make her afloat again.
After the rotation, carried out in September 2013, the ship had all its non-essential parts removed to make it as light as possible.
Her last voyage, which began on July 23, 2014, lasted four days and ended in the Port of Genoa, where the liner was completely dismantled.