Francesco Schettino, the Italian captain of Costa Concordia cruise ship that ran aground killing three person and injuring more than 20 more was arrested late Saturday and is being investigated for manslaughter and abandoning ship, said a local prosecutor in Grosetto, Italy.
Francesco Schettino, had been earlier interviewed by investigators in Porto Santo Stefano about what happened when the 4,200-passenger Costa Concordia struck rocks in shallow water off Italy’s western coast, said officer Emilio Del Santo of the Coastal Authorities of Livorno.
Authorities were looking at why the ship didn’t hail a mayday during the accident near the Italian island of Giglio on Friday night, officials said.
Costa Concordia is owned by Genoa-based Costa Cruises.
“At the moment we can’t exclude that the ship had some kind of technical problem, and for this reason moved towards the coast in order to save the passengers, the crew and the ship. But they didn’t send a mayday. The ship got in contact with us once the evacuation procedures were already ongoing,” Emilio Del Santo said prior to the announcement of the arrest.
“Fear and panic are comprehensible in a ship long over 300 meters with over 4000 passengers,” he said.
“We can confirm that the ship has a breach on the hull of about 90 meters, and that the right side of it is completely under water.”
The three persons dead were two French tourists and a crew member from Peru, Port authorities in Livorno said.
Giuseppe Orsina, a spokesman with the local civil protection agency, said 43 to 51 persons were missing, though authorities are reviewing passenger lists to confirm the exact figure.
“These people could be still on the island of Giglio, in private houses or in hospitals,” Giuseppe Orsina said.
The coast guard said 50 to 70 people could be missing.
One surviving crew member, Rosalyn Rincon, 30, of Blackpool, England, said she wanted to know why the cruise ship was sailing so close to shore. She described a harrowing grounding of the vessel, whose tilting and rising water evoked the film “Titanic”.
“I’m pretty much angry, and I want to know why we were so close to the coast,” said Rosalyn Rincon, who works as a dancer on the ship and was entertaining passengers by performing a trick inside a box with a magician when the accident occurred.
Rosalyn Rincon has sailed the itinerary the last three months.
“I’ve never thought something like this could happen,” she added.
Costa Concordia was 2.5 miles off route when it struck a rocky sandbar, according to the Italian Coast Guard. Local fishermen say the island coast of Giglio is known for its rocky sea floor.
Gianni Onorato, president of Costa Cruises, expressed “deep sorrow for this terrible tragedy,” but said the cruise line was unable to answer all the questions that authorities are now investigating.
“On the basis of the initial evidence – still preliminary – Costa Concordia, under the command of Master Francesco Schettino, was sailing its regularly scheduled itinerary from Civitavecchia to Savona, Italy, when the ship struck a submerged rock,” Gianni Onorato said in a statement before the announcement of the captain’s announcement.
“Captain Schettino, who was on the bridge at the time, immediately understood the severity of the situation and performed a maneuver intended to protect both guests and crew, and initiated security procedures to prepare for an eventual ship evacuation,” he continued.
“Unfortunately, that operation was complicated by a sudden tilting of the ship that made disembarkation difficult,” Gianni Onorato said.
Rescue teams worked through the night to evacuate more than 4,000 people from the Costa Concordia, owned by Genoa-based Costa Cruises, after it ran aground off of Italy’s western coast.
Authorities said earlier Saturday they believed everyone was accounted for, but that they did not have a definitive list of names.
The huge ship, which was lying on its side in shallow water Saturday evening, was carrying about 3,200 passengers and 1,000 crew members when it ran aground at about dinner time.
Costa Concordia, built in 2006, was on a Mediterranean cruise from Rome with stops in Savona, Marseille, Barcelona, Palma de Mallorca, Cagliari and Palermo, according to the cruise line. It was unclear how far into the cruise the grounding occurred.
Most of the passengers on board were Italian, as well as some French and German citizens. CNN affiliate America Noticias, in Peru, said a group of 32 Peruvians were also onboard.
The United Kingdom’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office was working with Italian authorities to identify British nationals on the cruise, a spokesman said.
Another Costa ship was involved in a deadly 2010 accident when the Costa Europa crashed into a pier in Egypt’s Sharm el-Sheikh during stormy weather, killing three crew members.