The Italian coast guard angrily ordered the captain of the capsized Italian cruise ship to go back aboard to oversee the evacuation, But he did not, according to a recording of their dramatic exchange played on national television.
The recording reflected the chaos and confusion in the minutes after the Costa Concordia, carrying more than 4,000 passengers and crew, hit a rock off the Tuscany coast on Friday night and keeled over.
Captain Francesco Schettino, who had already taken to a lifeboat, can be heard talking to Gregorio De Falco, a coast guard official based in the western Italian port of Livorno.
Eleven people have been confirmed killed and 23 are still missing.
De Falco later gave an interview to a local newspaper in Livorno in which he said he could tell by the tone of the captain's voice that something was very wrong. Schettino's lawyer said he would not comment.
The recording is full of background noises such as radio static, beeps and background noise of people and confusion.
As translated by Reuters, the entire conversation went as follows:
Coast Guard: Hello.
Captain: Good evening, chief.
Coast Guard: Listen, this is De Falco from Livorno. Am I speaking with the captain?
Captain: Good evening, Chief De Falco.
Coast Guard: Tell me your name, please.
Captain: I am Captain Schettino, chief.
Coast Guard: Schettino?
Coast Guard: Listen, Schettino. There are people trapped on board. Now, you go with your lifeboat. Under the bow of the ship, on the right side, there is a ladder. You climb on that ladder and go on board the ship. Go on board the ship and get back to me and tell me how many people are there. Is that clear. I am recording this conversation, Captain Schettino.
(Captain tries to speak but Coast Guard can't hear him clearly. Voices in the Coast Guard room.)
Coast Guard: Speak up! (captain tries to speak) Captain, put your hand over the microphone and speak in a louder voice!
Captain: At this moment the ship is listing.
Coast Guard: There are people who are coming down the ladder on the bow. Go back in the opposite direction, get back on the ship, and tell me how many people there are and what they have on board. Tell me if there are children, women and what type of help they need. And you tell me the number of each of these categories. Is that clear?
Listen Schettino, perhaps you have saved yourself from the sea but I will make you look very bad. I will make you pay for this. Dammit, go back on board!
(Noise can be heard in the background. Apparently other Coast Guard officers are shouting to each other in the same room about the ship, the ship)
Captain: Please ...
Coast Guard: There is no 'please' about it. Get back on board. Assure me you are going back on board!
Captain: I'm in a lifeboat, I am under here. I am not going anywhere. I am here.
Coast Guard: What are you doing, captain?
Captain: I am here to coordinate the rescue...
Coast Guard (interrupting): What are you coordinating there! Get on board! Coordinate the rescue from on board! Are you refusing?
Captain: No, I am not refusing.
Coast Guard: Are you refusing to go aboard, captain? Tell me the reason why you are not going back on board.
Captain: (inaudible)... there is a another lifeboat...
Coast Guard (interrupting, yelling): You get back on board! That is an order! There is nothing else for you to consider. You have sounded the Abandon Ship. Now I am giving the orders. Get back on board. Is that clear? Don't you hear me?
Captain: I am going aboard.
Coast Guard: Go! Call me immediately when you are on board. My rescue people are in front of the bow.
Captain: Where is your rescue craft?
Coast Guard: My rescue craft is at the bow. Go! There are already bodies, Schettino. Go!
Captain: How many bodies are there?
Coast Guard: I don't know! ... Christ, you should be the one telling me that!
Captain: Do you realise that it is dark and we can't see anything?
Coast Guard: So, what do you want to do, to go home, Schettino?! It's dark and you want to go home? Go to the bow of the ship where the ladder is and tell me what needs to be done, how many people there are, and what they need! Now!
Captain: My second in command is here with me.
Coast Guard: Then both of you go! Both of you! What is the name of your second in command?
Captain: His name is Dmitri (static)
Coast Guard: What is the rest of his name? (static) You and your second in command get on board now! Is that clear?
Captain: Look, chief, I want to go aboard but the other lifeboat here has stopped and is drifting. I have called ...
Coast Guard (interrupting): You have been telling me this for an hour! Now, go aboard! Get on board, and tell me immediately how many people there are!
Captain: OK, chief.
Coast Guard: Go! Immediately!
(Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Peter Graff)