By Silvia Ognibene
GROSSETO, Italy (Reuters) - Experts investigating the Costa Concordia shipwreck, which killed as many as 32 people, need more time to gather evidence and will present their findings at a pre-trial hearing on October 15, lawyers said on Saturday.
The panel of experts investigating the January 13 cruise line disaster off the Italian coast are expected to complete their work by September.
Saturday's pre-trial hearing, which considers evidence ahead of a full trial, was postponed after the experts asked for more time to answer some 50 requests from information by the prosecutors, lawyers said. It was the second hearing since the procedure opened on March 3.
"It was a simple technical delay," said Bruno Leporatti, a lawyer representing the ship's captain Francesco Schettino, who is accused of causing the accident and who faces charges including multiple manslaughter.
Leporatti said the investigators had not been able to gather all the evidence "given the complexity of the questions".
The huge Costa Concordia, with some 4,200 passengers and crew aboard, ran aground and half capsized after a rock tore a hole in its hull when it approached the tiny Tuscan island of Giglio during a cruise of the western Mediterranean.
At least 30 people died during a chaotic nighttime evacuation of the 114,500-tonne ship, and another two bodies have still not been recovered.
Alessandro Lecci, a lawyer representing Giglio, said a delay was preferable to the risk of having incomplete evidence in any subsequent trial. He said the experts' investigation was at an advanced stage.
Prosecutors have accused Schettino of causing the accident by bringing the multi-storey ship too close to the shore and then abandoning ship before the evacuation of passengers and crew was complete.
Eight other officers and executives of the ship's owners Costa Cruises are also under investigation.
Schettino was released from house arrest earlier this month but was not at Saturday's hearing. He has admitted mistakes and apologized for the accident, saying in his first full television interview that he had been distracted when it happened.
(Writing By James Mackenzie; Editing by Alessandra Rizzo)