Captain of wrecked cruise ship on trial in Italy

GROSSETO, Italy (AP) — Some 18 months after his vessel went aground, the captain of an Italian cruise liner faces trial.

Francesco Schettino (frahn-CHEHS’-koh skeh-TEE’-noh), skipper of the Costa Concordia, is accused of steering his ship too close to the shore as part of a publicity stunt and ramming the jagged reef. Thirty-two people died.

Schettino faces charges of manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning the Concordia before all of the 4,200 passengers and crew were safely evacuated. He has protested his innocence, saying his skillful steering of the liner to just outside the port saved thousands of lives. He also contends the ship’s navigational charts didn’t indicate the reef was in its path.

The trial is scheduled to begin today in Grosseto, in a theater rather than the Tuscan town’s small courthouse to make room for all the survivors, relatives and lawyers. But an eight-day nationwide Italian lawyers’ strike is expected to prompt the judge to immediately postpone the hearing by about a week.

As for the Costa Concordia, it’s still lying on its side and half-submerged off the tiny island of Giglio (JEEL’-yoh).

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APPHOTO ROM101: The Costa Concordia cruise ship lies on its side in the waters of the Tuscan island of Giglio, Italy, Monday, July 8, 2013. The luxury cruise ship ran aground off the coast of Tuscany on Jan 13, 2012, sending water pouring in through a 160-foot (50-meter) gash in the hull and forcing the evacuation of some 4,200 people from the listing vessel early. (AP Photo Paolo Santalucia) (8 Jul 2013)

<<APPHOTO ROM101 (07/08/13)££

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