With Cruise Ship Sinking, People Dying, Costa Concordia Captain Ordered Dinner: Cook

  on January 19 2012 8:23 PM

The Costa Concordia cruise ship had struck a coral reef off Italy's coast, but as the disaster was under way, Captain Francesco Schettino ordered dinner less than an hour later, according to a cook.

With his cruise ship sinking, the captain wanted food, said a cook from the ship in an interview with a Filipino television station on Thursday. Cook Rogelio Barista told the GMA Network that Schettino ordered the dinner amid the deadly chaos that killed at least 11 people with some 21 still missing. 

We wondered what was going on ... At that time, we really felt something was wrong. ... The stuff in the kitchen was falling off shelves and we realized how grave the situation was, Barista told the network.

The cook said Schettino ordered dinner around 10:30 p.m. Friday, less than an hour after after the ship struck coral reef off the west coast of Italy at 9:42 p.m.

I have had 12 years of experience as a cook on a cruise ship. ... I have even witnessed fires, so I wasn't that scared, Barista said. But I did wonder, though, what the captain was doing ... why was he still there.

The ship was operated by Costa Cruises of Genoa and owned by Carnival Corp. It was carrying more than 4,200 passengers on Friday when it struck the reef just off the Tuscan island of Giglio and capsized. Schettino was not authorized to take the ship into dangerous waters so close to the shore. He is under house arrest for his actions and may face charges of manslaughter, abandoning ship and causing a shipwreck.

Schettino is suspected of making an unauthorized detour from the ship's programmed route into the dangerous waters. The Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera reported earlier in the week that Schettino may have sailed close to the Tuscan island to delight his head waiter, who is from the island. Others have suggested Schettino may have sailed close to the island to deliver a foghorn-blasting salute to the local population, according to Fox News.

Schettino's behavior after the wreck has been as curious as the ship's fatal path. A new audiotape was released Thursday detailing the first reported contact between port officials and the Costa Concordia. Schettino was heard on the tape telling port officials the ship only had a blackout more than 30 minutes after it crashed into the coral reef. He apparently neglected to mention that the cruise ship was sinking.

The recording, according to Fox News, was made at 10:12 p.m. Schettino told the port official was he was checking to see why the ship had a blackout. He didn't tell the official that the ship had struck the coral reef, and that it had been involved in a chaotic disaster for more than a half hour. Some 20 minutes after that conversation with the port officials is when the cook says Schettino ordered dinner.

An audio tape released earlier in the week detailed tense conversation between Schettino and a Coast Guard officer responding to the accident after Schettino had abandoned the ship and was in a lifeboat. The Italian Coast Guard officer told Schettino to get back on the ship he had abandoned. 

You go on board! Is that clear? Do you hear me? the officer shouted to Schettino, who was safe in a lifeboat away from the ship as passengers tried to escape, while others had already perished inside.

It is an order, the Coast Guard officer shouted. Don't make any more excuses. You have declared 'abandon ship.' Now I am in charge.

Schettino responded saying the ship was too dark to return to, while also noting the ship was dangerously tipping.

I am here with the rescue boats, Schettino said. I am here. I am not going anywhere. I am here to coordinate the rescue.

What are you coordinating there? the Coast Guard officer said. Go on board! Coordinate the rescue from aboard the ship. Are you refusing?

Said Schettino: Do you realize it is dark and here we can't see anything?

Said the Coast Guard officer: And so what? You want to go home, Schettino? It is dark and you want to go home? 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!

There are already bodies now, Schettino.

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