Update: October 17, 1:30 p.m.
According to witnesses present at the pre-trail hearing this week, an echo sounder that tracks water depth had been switched off before the Costa Concordia struck a rock and capsized. A panel of court experts told the hearing that the sonar device had been off at the time of the shipwreck, reports the Montreal Gazette.
The cruise ship's operator, Costa Cruises, a unit of the U.S.-based Carnival Corp, has placed the blame soley on ex-captain Schettino and said that nothing discussed in the pre-trial hearing so far concerns them.
The ill-famed ex-captain of the wrecked Costa Concordia cruise ship faced survivors of the tragedy in court for the first time since the January incident. Many blame Francesco Schettino for losing 32 lives as the luxury liner capsized off Giglio Island.
Schettino and about a dozen passengers met today for the first of hearings in Grosseto. Again, the captain faces allegations of manslaughter, causing a shipwreck, abandoning ship, failing to report an accident to the coast guard and destroying a natural habitat.
The long-awaited case is to focus on pressing matters including reasons why it allegedly took Schettino more than an hour to issue an order to abandon ship and why Schettino allegedly left the vessel before all passengers had abandoned ship.
A judge is expected to determine what evidence is admissible for an eventual trial, including the black box ship data recorder. The hearing will include testimony and information on the contents of the data recorder.
Schettino entered the court room through a side entrance. His second in command, another officer onboard, and head of the Costa Cruises fleet are all also under investigation and arrived at the court with their attorneys in tow.
The proceedings are closed to the public. The hearing is expected to last seven to 10 days.
This court hearing comes in the midst of an uproar caused by Schettino last week, as he is suing Costa Crociere for being wrongfully terminated from his job. He believes that his actions prevented additional deaths.