ROME -- An Italian judge on Wednesday ordered the captain of the cruise ship Costa Concordia to stand trial on manslaughter and other charges related to the deadly capsizing of the vessel off the coast of Tuscany in January 2012.
The judge set a July 9 trial date for the captain, Francesco Schettino, 52. He is accused of causing the ship to run aground, resulting in the deaths of 32 people, and then abandoning the vessel while many of its 4,229 passengers and crew members were still aboard.
"Schettino's indictment certainly did not come unexpected," said Francesco Pepe, one of the captain's lawyers, who attended a pretrial hearing on Wednesday in Grosseto, a Tuscan city close to where the ship capsized. Mr. Pepe described the captain's mood as very "attentive and focused on the case," but also calm. "It's like a driver whose bus goes offroad," he said. "He had an accident and did all he could to reduce its consequences."
Five other defendants -- an official of the cruise ship company, Costa Cruises, and four crew members -- sought plea bargains, and their cases will be judged separately. Plaintiffs in the case lamented the fact that Captain Schettino would be the only defendant brought to trial. "Nobody expected Schettino not to stand trial," said Cesare Bulgheroni, one of the lawyers for a group called Justice for the Concordia that represents more than 100 survivors. "But he is not the only one to be held responsible. Had the company not responded so slowly to the accident and allowed the ship to navigate so close to shore, the shipwreck would have had lesser consequences."
Captain Schettino has said his superiors ordered him to get close to an island, Giglio, for sightseeing purposes. The ship hit a rock, which gashed its hull and caused the ship to start taking on water until it capsized just off the island. In April, Costa Cruises struck a plea bargain with prosecutors and agreed to pay $1.28 million for administrative offenses related to the charges against its employees.
A company spokesman said 80 percent of the people on board -- crew members, victims' families and people who reported serious injuries -- had already accepted some compensation from the company, but declined to provide the total.
Giglio alone plans to seek damages of 80 million euros, or $103 million, said Alessandro Maria Lecci, a lawyer representing the island. Tourism decreased by 30 percent in the summer of 2012 from the previous summer, and the islanders' lives have been uprooted by the wreck, he said. The 951-foot-long luxury liner has been lying, half-submerged on its starboard side, just outside the entrance to the island's port for 16 months, as a complicated removal plan has been delayed by technical difficulties.
"A year and a half after the accident, we still cannot quantify the damage to the island," Mr. Lecci said. "Eighty million euros is certainly not a definitive figure."
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.