Coast Guard ordered ship captain to go back on board

ROME Tue Jan 17, 2012 6:54pm IST

Costa Concordia cruise liner captain Francesco Schettino (R) is escorted by a Carabinieri in Grosseto January 14, 2012. REUTERS/Enzo Russo/ANSA

Costa Concordia cruise liner captain Francesco Schettino (R) is escorted by a Carabinieri in Grosseto January 14, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Enzo Russo/ANSA

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ROME (Reuters) - The Italian coast guard pleaded in vain for the captain of the capsized Italian cruise ship to return on board to oversee the evacuation but he refused, according to what a leading Italian newspaper said was a recording of the conversation.

Captain Francesco Schettino is in jail, accused of multiple manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning ship.

The audio recording, on Corriere della Sera's website, reflected the chaos and confusion in the minutes after the Costa Concordia hit a rock off the Tuscany coast on Friday night and keeled over. Six people were killed and 29 are still missing.

A Coast Guard official on Giglio, the island where the ship hit a rock, said he could not confirm the authenticity of the tape and said the Coast Guard did not give it to the newspaper. There was no comment available from the captain's lawyer.

The recording is full of background noises such as radio static, beeps and background noises of other people and confusion.

The recording says in part:

Coast guard to captain (who has already left the ship):

"There are people who are coming down the ladder on the bow. Go back in the opposite direction, get back on the ship, and tell me how many people there are and what they have on board.

"Tell me if there are children, women and what type of help they need. And you tell me the number of each of these categories. Is that clear?!

"Listen Schettino, perhaps you have saved yourself from the sea but I will make you look very bad. I will make you pay for this. Dammit, go back on board!"

(Noise can be heard in the background where other Coast Guard officers are shouting to each other in the same room about "the ship, the ship")

Captain to Coast Guard: "Please ...."

Coast Guard to captain: "There is no please about it. Go back on board. Assure me you are going back on board!"

Captain to Coast Guard: "I am on a life boat of rescue, I am under here. I am not going anywhere. I am here."

Coast Guard to Captain: "What are you doing captain?"

Captain to Coast Guard: "I am here to coordinate the rescue ..." (Coast Guard interrupts him)

Coast Guard to captain: "What are you coordinating there! Go on board! Coordinate the rescue from on board! Are you refusing?"

Captain to Coast Guard: "No, I am not refusing."

Coast Guard to captain: "Are you refusing to go on board, captain? Tell me the reason why you are not going back on board."

Captain to Coast Guard: " (inaudible)... there is a another life boat ... " (Coast Guard interrupts him again)

Coast Guard (screaming) to Captain: "You go back on board! That is an order! There is nothing else for you to consider. You have sounded the 'abandon ship'. Now I am giving the orders. Go back on board. Is that clear? Don't you hear me?"

Captain to Coast Guard: "I am going on board."

Coast Guard to captain: "Go! Call me immediately when you are on board. My rescue people are in front of the bow."

(Reporting By Philip Pullella)

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