Tape shows cruise ship crew denying emergency

Reuters News
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Posted: Jan 19, 2012 10:44 AM

By Silvia Aloisi

ROME (Reuters) - A crew member of the capsized Costa Concordia told the Italian coastguard the vessel had only suffered a power outage and there was no emergency onboard, even after passengers had put on life vests, according to a new recording aired on Thursday.

News channel Sky TG 24, which broadcast the tape, said it was the first radio conversation between the coastguard and the cruise ship after the liner, carrying 4,200 passengers and crew, hit a rock off Tuscany's coast on Friday night and keeled over.

The conversation began at 10:12 p.m. (4:12 p.m. ET), about 30 minutes after the accident, Sky TG 24 reported.

By then, many passengers had called relatives on their cell phones asking them to alert the police, who in turn told the coastguard to check on the state of the ship.

"Good evening Costa Concordia, please, do you have problems on board?," a coastguard official asks the bridge.

An unidentified member of the crew replies: "We've had a blackout, we are checking the conditions on board."

The coastguard asks: "What kind of a problem? Is it just something with the generator? The police ... have received a phone call from the relatives of a sailor who said that during the dinner everything was falling on his head,."

He says some passengers were already wearing life jackets.

The crew member simply repeats that there has been a blackout. "We are checking the conditions on board," he says, promising to keep the coastguard informed.

Eleven people were killed in the accident and 24 are still unaccounted for, although some of the dead have yet to be identified.

The captain of the ship, Francesco Schettino, is under house arrest and has been accused of multiple manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning ship.

In another leaked recording released this week, the Italian coastguards are heard angrily pleading with Schettino and telling him to return to his listing ship.

The ship operators have blamed him for the disaster and praised the rest of the crew for their efforts to save lives. Passengers have complained that they were left for hours waiting in lifeboats, stairwells and assembly points before the order to evacuate was issued.

(Reporting By Silvia Aloisi; Editing by Ben Harding)