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Costa Concordia: Captain to revisit wreck as part of trial

The captain of the Costa Concordia cruise ship, Francesco Schettino, is returning to the wreck for the first time as part of his manslaughter trial.

The ship hit a reef near the island of Giglio in January 2012 and capsized, with the loss of 32 lives.

Capt Schettino is said to have wept when he saw the wreck from a ferry taking him to Giglio this week.

He denies the charges of manslaughter and abandoning ship, which could see him jailed for up to 20 years.

He arrived on the island off the Tuscan coast on Tuesday and attended a health and safety briefing at a hotel on Thursday morning to prepare him for the short boat trip out to the wreck, on which he will be accompanied by a group of court-appointed experts.

He is being allowed on to the ship “as a defendant, not a consultant”, Judge Giovanni Puliatti said.

The 290m-long vessel was righted in September 2013 in one of the largest, most complex salvage operations ever, but remains stranded.

The captain has been accused of leaving the luxury liner before the 4,229 people on board the ship were taken off the ship.

He has already accepted some degree of responsibility, asking for forgiveness in a television interview last year as he talked of those who died.

But he denies abandoning the ship after it hit a reef near the island.

He maintains he managed to steer the stricken vessel closer to shore so it did not sink in deep water where hundreds might have drowned.

An Italian court convicted five others of manslaughter in July 2013.

They had all successfully entered plea bargains, whereas Schettino’s request for a plea bargain was denied by the prosecution.

His return to the island will undoubtedly stir memories of the tragedy among locals, says the BBC’s Alan Johnston.

“Schettino’s here, he cried, so what?” one woman on the island told the AFP news agency. “We’re tired of this story! We want him and the boat gone.”

But Giuseppe Modesti, 67, told AFP: “There’s no real anger here any more. Two years have passed and it’s time to make peace with what happened.”

The complex operation to salvage the Costa Concordia took 18 hours and followed months of stabilisation and preparation work by a team of 500 engineers and divers.

Ports in Italy, Britain, France, Turkey and China are now bidding for the lucrative contract to dismantle it.

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