The captain always goes down with the ship, the saying goes.
Or at least the captain is the last to leave a sinking vessel.
But not on the Costa Concordia.
Passengers aboard the stricken Costa cruise ship say that they observed Italian Master Francesco Schettino draped in a blanket aboard a lifeboat heading to safety as the vessel's crew and passengers struggled for their lives. There is also talk that the captain intentionally deviated from course to "buzz the island," which if true takes this case from sinple negligence to recklessness or intentional misconduct.
Arrested in Rome for manslaughter and abandoning ship, Captain Schettino talked about "lateral projections of rocks" and other phantom rubbish, rather than his own foolishness, which tore the hull apart and doomed his cruise ship. He boasted that he saved lives and was the last to leave the vessel, apparently forgetting about his chief purser who was trapped aboard the ship.
The captain of a vessel is the supreme master of his ship at sea. The captain is ultimately responsible not only for the safe navigation of the vessel, but for the discipline and order of the crew and the safety of all crew and passengers.
Initial reports suggest that Captain Schettino failed on all accounts. In an unregulated industry which looks for a scapegoat, the cruise line will focus on an irresponsible and renegade captain as the sole cause of the disaster which unfolded this weekend.
If passenger accounts are correct, Captain Schettino will long be considered a coward who abandoned his responsibilities and duties after wrecking the Concordia and killing scores of innocents in the process.
Photo credit: Enzo Russo / EPA