Cruise Ship Captain Questioned by Police

PHOTO: Ship Aground off Italy; 3 Bodies Found, 69 Missing
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A honeymooning couple were rescued from their cabin on a half-submerged cruise ship early Sunday, nearly 24 hours after the luxury liner hit a reef off the Italian coast and toppled over.

Divers had suspended the search of the part of the ship that is under water at dark, but rescuers continued to comb the remainder of the ship, knocking on cabin doors and searching for any signs of life.

Prato fire commander Vincenzo Bennardo told The Associated Press that couple rescued early Sunday were both about 29 years old and were in good condition.

The captain of the cruise ship has been detained for questioning by Italian authorities as Titanic-like tales of survival emerged among angry passengers.

Three people died when the luxury cruise liner Costa Concordia struck a reef and sank ont o its side off of the small island of Giglio early Saturday. The U.S. embassy in Rome said none of the 126 Americans on board the ship are among those who were seriously injured.

The gleaming ship was carrying 4,234 passengers and crew when it struck rocks off Italy's west coast during the night, tearing a 160-foot long gash in the hull.

Most of the ship's passengers were ferried to safety, but dozens were unaccounted for. Some may be safely on land, but officials feared some may have been trapped in the ship.

"The place where they might be is in the belly of the ship," Coast Guard Capt. Cosimo Nicastro told Sky TG24 TV.

Divers cautiously tried to inspect the ship which lay on its side half submerged, but the search was called off by darkness.

Many passengers fumed that they were left to fend for themselves as the ship keeled over and the electricity went out. There were few crew members to help and when they did try to help often got in the way of evacuations, passengers said.

The ship's captain Francesco Schettino was detained by authorities and questioned along with the ship's first bridge officer, the Italian news agency ANSA reported. ANSA said the captain could face criminal charges.

The agency reported that Schettino could be charged with abandoning ship since he reportedly left the stricken vessel about 12:30 a.m., while many passengers didn't get safely off the ship until 6 a.m.

There are also reports in the Italian press that Schettino took the Costa Concordia close to the harbor of Giglio island many times in the past so his passengers could take photographs.

The captain's lawyer Bruno Leporatti said Schettino was taken to the Grosseto jail, but argued that the captain was a hero.

"I would like to say that hundreds of people owe their life to the captain of the Costa Concordia's skill in an emergency," the lawyer said. "You have to be very good to bring a ship like this which is 117,000 tons and 300 meters long, which is sinking after a collision, close to land to allow for easy rescue so as to save so many people. I think the maneuver was brilliant from a nautical point of view."

Harrowing tales of chaos ensued for several hours as the crew and passengers tried to scramble to safety.

Cruise Ship Sinks Amid Screams, Darkness and Frantic Pushing

A passenger interviewed in the nearby port of Santo Stefano told ANSA that the pianist playing next to the restaurant while dinner was being served jumped into the sea after the ship slammed into the rock, and others followed him.

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