Costa Concordia captain Francesco Schettino has told a court that he was showing off when he steered the cruise ship onto rocks off the Italian island of Giglio.
But he denied that the person he was most trying to impress was a blonde Moldovan dancer nearly 20 years his junior who was with him on the bridge at the time of the January 2012 disaster, which left 32 passengers and crew dead.
Testifying on Tuesday for the first time in his trial for manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning his ship, Schettino presented himself as a captain who had been badly briefed by his crew about the disastrous route the 115,000-tonne vessel was fixed on when he returned to the bridge after dinner.
On the sidelines of the hearing, prosecutor Francesco Verusio revealed he was planning to request a 20-year prison term for the captain.
Schettino, 54, told the court that it was normal “commercial” practice to navigate close to the coast to impress passengers.
On this occasion, he also wanted to “salute” a retired colleague living on Giglio and the ship’s head waiter, who came from the island.
“I was trying to catch three pigeons with one bean,” Schettino, said, using an Italian expression that translates as “killing three birds with one stone”.
The captain denied taking a reckless risk to impress Domnica Cemortan, with whom he had just dined.
An employee of Costa, the Moldovan dancer was on the ship as an unauthorised passenger.
Schettino’s reputation as “Captain Coward” is largely based on his conduct after the crash.
Only 29 minutes after he had given the order to passengers and crew to evacuate, Schettino himself left the vessel with hundreds of those onboard still unaccounted for.