Grounded ship may have been too close to shore

The Costa Concordia cruise ship lies on its side January 15, 2012 in the harbor of the Tuscan island of Giglio. Two bodies were found Sunday on the ship, taking the death toll in the disaster to five. More than a dozen are still unaccounted for. ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP/Getty Images

Search and rescue operations were suspended Monday on the capsized ocean liner Costa Concordia after the ship's position shifted. And the captain remained the center of attention.

The luxury cruise ship ran aground and tipped over off the northwest coast of Italy Friday, near Tuscany, in the port of the island of Giglio.

The allegation is, and a mounting body of evidence suggests, that the ship was far too close to shore when it hit a rock that is now stuck in the hull.

Cruise company blames captain as sixth body found

The captain claims the rock that tore open his ship was not marked on his charts and that he was not too close to shore. "We were," says Francesco Schettino, "about 300 meters from shore, more or less. ... We should not have had this contact."

Italian Coast Guard officials, local fishermen and ferry operators dismiss that out of hand. The ship's black box recorder has been found and will resolve the issue.

Commander Cosimo Nicastro, a spokesman for the Italian Coast Guard, says, "This records everything, the position, the route, the communication, so a lot of good information for us to know how it went so bad."

The captain faces the possibility of multiple manslaughter charges and up to twelve years in jail if he abandoned his ship before all the passengers were off.

Hopes of finding anyone else alive were fading fast even before the search was suspended. Companion ways and cabins were choked with debris, and divers working in the dangerous flooded section first had to secure floating items and then, as one put it, "make noise," in the hope that someone would respond.

  • Allen Pizzey

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