Monday, January 23, 2012

Costa Concordia: Authorities Search for Schettino's laptop computer

Italian authorities are searching for the personal computer of the captain of the Costa Concordia cruise ship, amid reports that it was taken away by a mystery blonde woman in the hours after the disaster.

Costa Concordia: authorities search for cruise ship captain's laptop

As uncertainty over the exact circumstances of the debacle grew, divers used explosives to blow more holes in the hull of the ship and continued their search for the estimated 19 people who are still missing from the accident. The death toll stands at 13.

Officials are trying to determine whether they can continue the search operation whilst at the same time authorising a Dutch salvage firm to start pumping out the ship's half a million gallons of heavy oil and diesel.
The giant cruise liner ran aground on Jan 13 after crashing into rocks off the Tuscan island of Giglio after the captain apparently misjudged a manoeuvre to 'salute' the island by sailing close to shore.
Capt Francesco Schettino reportedly retrieved the laptop from his cabin and brought it ashore with him, after escaping from the crippled luxury liner in a lifeboat in the early hours of Saturday, Jan 14.
Once on dry land, he took a taxi to the Hotel Bahamas, the only hotel that was open on Giglio.
The owners of the hotel said the captain was holding a red plastic bag containing a rectangular white object which resembled a laptop case.

The fact that he is alleged to have brought some of his personal possessions ashore has raised more questions, because in testimony to investigators last week he claimed to have "tripped" and fallen into the life boat, amid scenes of chaos and panic.

He was being interviewed by an Italian television network when a smartly-dressed middle-aged blonde woman employed by Costa Cruises swept into the lobby, ordered him not to do any more interviews, and whisked him away.

When he was interviewed by police in the nearby town of Orbetello several hours later, he did not have a computer with him.

"The captain wanted to go off and change into some dry socks," Paolo Fanciulli, 45, the owner of the Hotel Bahamas, told The Daily Telegraph.

"He asked me if I could keep an eye on his bag. It was about 11.30am on Saturday. Italian journalists were trying to interview him. Suddenly a blonde woman, who I guessed was a lawyer from what she said, came into the lobby and said: "No interviews".

"She understood the situation immediately. She took him by the arm and led him away. It all happened in about four or five seconds." A short time later Capt Schettino was arrested on the island and taken to a police station in Orbetello on the mainland for questioning.

Police records show that by that time he had only his mobile phone in his possession.

Carabinieri police from Grosseto, where the lead prosecutor in the case is based, visited Giglio last week to try to ascertain more details on the apparently missing computer.

"The captain looked like he hadn't slept all night," said Mr Fanciulli. "He looked tired, exhausted. He had no trace of arrogance. And he certainly didn't seem as if he had been drinking. He was in shock from what had happened." Capt Schettino's lawyer did not respond to telephone calls but Costa Cruises denied that its employee had obtained the laptop.

"Having spoken to the person, we deny categorically having received anything from Capt Schettino," the company said in a statement. It did not offer any explanation of where any computer might be.