Nightly News   |  January 21, 2012

Captain's version of the Costa Condordia story

As the death toll rises from the Costa Concordia, the ship's captain is fighting back against allegations that he abandoned his post. NBC’s Michelle Kosinski reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> now, the latest on the cruise ship disaster in italy where tonight the death toll has gone up to 12. there's also new information about the captain under house arrest and under fire. tonight he's defending himself, fighting back and we get our report from nbc's michelle kosinski who remains on giglio island .

>> reporter: conditions finally giving divers a window of safety, they resume their search. then, late afternoon, a discovery. the body of a woman among the 21 missing. their families nearby, including the daughter of missing american barbara and jerry heil from minnesota up. comforted by another on board. divers focus on this area they have been trying to access for days. called deck 4, and it would have been the meeting place where passengers would come with life jackets on to wait to be rescued. but it's on the side of the ship that's submerged. pictures from today's search show what it's like down there. and everything left behind. here someone's luggage. and today, an italian newspaper reports what it says are captain schettino's statements in court. he says that night he was having dinner with officers and the ship's hostess and told the crew to let them know when they reach six miles from the giglio island . helped to steer closer, a salute to a retired commander. radar showed a rock. he turned the ship, desperate and too late. he states he called the company, told them i messed up and explained what happened. then arranged the evacuation. he says he didn't sound the alarm immediately to avoid panic. but panic came. and he claims he tripped, fell into the sea, was rescued by a boat, insisted they bring him back, but says they refused. in a phone call with the coast guard after the accident, he told them he'd be the last man on board. i will stay here, i think it will be just me. he's accused of manslaughter and abandoning the concordia. the families gathered here from around the world. their desire to lay their loved ones to rest starting to surpass hope of finding that miracle of survivals now. michelle kosinski , nbc news, giglio, italy.