The captain of the doomed Costa Concordia cruise ship took the stand on Tuesday, giving his first official testimony in a manslaughter trial over the 2012 shipwreck off the coast of Italy. Francesco Schettino faced questions from prosecutors over his role in the sinking of the ship, which led to 32 deaths, and claimed he couldn't remember whether he had previously steered his ship so close to the coast, contradicting his earlier claims, according to CNN.
Schettino, 54, has denied the charges against him, including manslaughter, causing a maritime disaster and abandoning ship, which could land him in prison for up to 23 years if he's convicted, according to CNN. The Costa Concordia capsized after it collided with rocks off of Italy’s coast in the Tyrrhenian Sea in January 2012. The chaotic evacuation of the ship is thought to be the reason lives were lost, and Schettino has faced public criticism over his decision to leave the vessel.
During Tuesday’s trial in Grosseto, Italy, prosecutors questioned Schettino about his decision to take the cruise ship off course before the collision, reported CNN. Schettino claimed that he wasn’t used to deciphering the log books in which deviations off a ship’s course are typically recorded.
The captain has long said he looked forward to clearing his name in court. Schettino’s defense team has claimed that none of the passengers killed in the shipwreck died in the initial collision and that the real fault lay with the failure of the backup generator and water-tight compartments, according to the Associated Press.
There's also controversy over the prosecution’s decision to go after Schettino alone after five other defendants in the case reached plea bargains with prosecutors. Many survivors and families of the dead want cruise ship operators to be held accountable for the disaster as well, according to The Week.