Lawyer: Cruise captain "saved hundreds" of lives

Francesco Schettino, the captain of the Costa Concordia cruise ship that ran aground on the tiny Island of Giglio, leaves the Grosseto court in Italy Jan. 17, 2012. AP Photo/Lapresse

Updated at 2:42 p.m. ET

ROME - The captain of a crippled cruise ship off Tuscany was placed under house arrest Tuesday, according to his lawyer, who said his client's actions "saved hundreds if not thousands of lives."

Capt. Francesco Schettino recounted his version of the events leading to Friday night's wreckage of the Costa Concordia cruise ship before prosecutors and a judge at a preliminary hearing.

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Prosecutors have accused Schettino of manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning his ship before all passengers were evacuated during the grounding of the ship. The captain could face up to 12 years in prison on the abandoning ship charge alone.

Schettino's attorney, Bruno Leporatti, said that in the hearing, the captain had insisted that after the initial crash into the reefs, he had maneuvered the ship close to shore in a way that "saved hundreds if not thousands of lives."

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The death toll nearly doubled to 11 Tuesday when divers extracted five more bodies, all of them adults wearing life jackets, from the rear of the ship near an emergency evacuation point, according to Italian Coast Guard Cmdr. Cosimo Nicastro. He said they were thought to have been passengers.

Also Tuesday, a shocking audio emerged in which Schettino was heard making excuses as the coast guard repeatedly ordered him to return to oversee his ship's evacuation.

The 52-year-old Schettino, described by the Italian media as a genial, tanned ship's officer, has worked for 11 years for the ship's owner and was made captain in 2006. He hails from Meta di Sorrento, in the Naples area, which produces many of Italy's ferry and cruise boat captains. He attended the Nino Bixio merchant marine school near Sorrento.

Passengers, however, described the evacuation as chaotic.

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