ROME - When Capt. Francesco Schettino abandoned the Costa Concordia after the cruise ship ran aground on the Italian island of Giglio two years ago, a furious harbor master ordered him to “get back on board, damn it!”
On Thursday, Schettino finally did.
Sporting his trademark sunglasses, permanent tan and slicked-back hair, Schettino was mobbed by a crowd of journalists and curious locals upon his arrival at Giglio's pier. He fought his way through with the help of local authorities, and finally began the short trip to the cruise liner he is accused of crashing on the island’s reef.
Schettino, who was charged with manslaughter after 32 people died when the Costa Concordia crashed and capsized on Jan. 13, 2012, asked permission to join investigators on a scheduled visit.
“I am here to tell all of you that what you were told was a lie,” he told a few locals at the port, according to the Corriere della Sera newspaper. “I am here to restore the truth.”
Schettino is an unpopular figure on the pristine island and received a cold welcome by the local population. They accuse him of threatening the island’s ecosystem and damaging the tourism industry, their main source of income.
During his short visit, Schettino was allowed to “watch, but not touch," according to officials.
His visit came days after officials launched an investigation into two other Costa Concordia employees who allegedly tampered with the wreck.