The Master of the cruiseship Costa Concordia has been sentenced to 16 years in prison for his role in the sinking of the Costa Crociere vessel off the Italian island of Giglio in January 2012.
The casualty claimed 32 lives and is likely to land the marine insurance sector with a bill pushing $2bn, making it the most expensive casualty in shipping history.
The verdict against 54-year-old Francesco Schettino was handed down by three judges at a court in the town of Grosseto in Tuscany, after a hearing that commenced in July 2013.
The prosecution had been calling for a prison sentence of 26 years and three months, on counts of multiple manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning his ship with passengers and crew still on board.
An appeal is expected, and the given the nature of the Italian judicial process, the case could still run for many years.
Capt Schettino’s defence team argued that loss of life would have been greater had it not been for his seamanship skills. They denied that he had abandoned ship, arguing instead that he had tripped and fallen into a lifeboat.
The prosecution’s case was that there would have been no fatalities had Capt Schettino ordered an immediate evacuation after the vessel struck a rock an hour earlier.
Some 4,625 passengers and crew were on board at the time of the sinking, which occurred shortly after the vessel left Civitavecchia at the start of a seven-day Mediterranean cruise.
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