Black Box Issues 4 Days Before Cruise Ship Wreck, Emails Show

PHOTO: Costa Concordia
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Four days before the Costa Concordia cruise ship sank off Italy's west coast, killing 32 people, emails from the liner's technical director reveal that the vessel had a faulty black box data recorder, according to new documents leaked to an Italian newspaper this week.

In correspondence before the ship capsized Jan. 13, Pierfrancesco Ferro, a technical director for Costa Cruises, reportedly told a repair company that the black box had broken down for the "umpteenth" time.

"The situation is becoming unbearable," he said via email in reports from an ongoing investigation by Italian authorities.

According to the Corriere Della Sera newspaper, the emails showed that the black box was scheduled to be fixed Jan. 14, when the cruise ship had docked at Savona.

The recorder was never repaired or replaced, even though the owners of Costa Cruise Lines, a unit of Carnival Corp., insisted to Italian authorities that the recorder had been working when the ship hit rocks and then capsized off the shore of Giglio.

The Costa Concordia was carrying 4,234 passengers and crew when it struck rocks about 450 feet from the shore during the night. A 160-foot gash was torn into the hull, causing the ship to capsize. Efforts are still underway to right the ship, which is expected to be a total loss.

In documents, investigators said that not having the working recorder was making their probe into the accident more difficult. Media reports say they are relying on information from a computer system that crashed during the accident.

The documents obtained by the newspaper also indicated that the ship's watertight safety doors, which were designed to prevent flooding, had been left open.

Even though Costa Cruises maintained that was not true, officers on board reportedly said leaving the doors ajar was standard practice to make it easier for employees to come and go.

The report also suggests that the crew was using unauthorized, outdated maps that were found in the bridge of the ship.

Since Jan. 13, the blame has been placed on Francesco Schettino, the ship's captain, who is still under house arrest facing manslaughter charges for allegedly causing the ship to run aground near Giglio and for abandoning ship.

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