Costa Concordia Captain Heads to Trial in July

Lipcon, Marguiles, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

Millions of people around the world have been waiting to hear what will become of the cruise ship captain who was responsible for the deaths of 32 people onboard the Costa Concordia when it capsized last year. Although they may not have been on the ship when tragedy struck, people from around the world have banded together to offer condolences to the victims and their loved ones and have united to show their support. Now, they can at least breath a small sigh of relief, as the captain has been scheduled to go to court in July.

The grounding of the Costa Concordia on January 13, 2012 is just one of those cruise ship accidents that will never be forgotten. Partly because the accident was 100 percent preventable and was the direct result of the captain’s last minute decision to alter the ship’s course.

The former captain, Francesco Schettino, decided he wanted to show off and made the call to bring the Concordia closer to shore but the move caused the vessel to crash into a giant rock in Giglio, Italy and partially sink, leading to the deaths of the 32 individuals and countless other injuries.

But that’s not even the worst of it. Survivors recount nightmarish tales of how many of the Concordia crew had no clue how to execute a ship evacuation and were basically just running around, speaking different languages ( their native languages most likely) without being able to effectively communicate in the languages the passengers spoke. And while all this was happening, Schettino took off, abandoned his ship and found safety ashore, leaving passengers and crew members behind to fend for themselves.

There have been times before in which cruise lines employee’s who  have contributed to accidents and injuries have been able to get away with their transgressions because of loopholes in the cruise passenger ticket contract, the law, due to the fact that most ships are registered in foreign countries, or because of other instances of crime cover-up by the cruise industry. However, this time around, it appears is not going to be the case.

Schettino has been charged with manslaughter and abandoning ship, and along with eight other crew members, has been going back and forth in court but finally, the survivors, families and supporters of the Costa Concordia accident may be able to obtain justice.

The former captain has been scheduled to go to trial on July 9 for manslaughter and will face his fate for his role in the tragic cruise ship accident. The trial will be held in Grosseto, which is the city closes to the site of the accident.

However, the news is bittersweet, as the other suspects in the investigation have requested plea bargains, and they are expected to be approved. If granted, sentences may involve a range between a year and six months and two years and 10 months in prison.

Even more disheartening was the fact that last month, another suspect in the case, the owner of Costa Cruises, Costa Crociere, accepted limited responsibility as the employer of all the suspects and was ordered it to pay a fine of 1.0 million euros ($1.3 million)in a decision that was hugely contested by both cruise accident survivors and families, but by maritime organizations and advocates around the world.

Costa Cruises can still be sued in civil courts, but it just goes to show that battling a cruise line for justice for an accident THEY were responsible for is certainly an uphill battle.

As it stands, the Concordia still remains lodged in her watery grave off the coast of Giglio, serving as a reminder of what happens when cruise lines do not follow proper protocols for navigating ships, training crew members effectively, and thereby put the lives of innocent people in danger.