Audio: Captain pleaded not to reboard cruise ship

5 more bodies located

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Capt. Schettino recounted his version of events before prosecutors and a judge at a preliminary hearing Tuesday as to whether he should stay jailed, as requested by prosecutors. The judge deferred an immediate decision. The captain could face up to 12 years in prison on the abandoning ship charge alone.

Mr. Leporatti said in the hearing that the captain had insisted that, after the initial crash into the reefs, he had maneuvered the ship close to shore in a way that “saved hundreds if not thousands of lives.”

Passengers, however, described the evacuation as chaotic.

Steve and Kathy Ledtke of Fort Gratiot, Mich., said they were sitting down to a late dinner Friday when they realized something had gone wrong. Mrs. Ledtke told WDIV-TV that it seemed no one was in charge.

“It was complete chaos, and it was every man for himself,” Mrs. Ledtke said. “Nobody knew where to go.”

Earlier Tuesday, Italian naval divers exploded holes in the hull of the grounded cruise ship, trying to speed up the search for the missing while seas were still calm. Navy spokesman Alessandro Busonero told Sky TV 24 the holes would help divers enter the wreck more easily.

“We are rushing against time,” he said.

The divers set four microcharges above and below the surface of the water, Mr. Busonero said. Video showed one hole above the waterline less than 6 feet in diameter.

Mediterranean waters in the area were relatively calm Tuesday, with waves of just 1 foot, but they were expected to reach nearly 6 feet Wednesday, according to meteorological forecasts.

A Dutch shipwreck salvage firm, meanwhile, said it would take its engineers and divers two to four weeks to extract the 500,000 gallons of fuel aboard the ship. The safe removal of the fuel has become a priority second only to finding the missing, as the wreckage site lies in a maritime sanctuary for dolphins, porpoises and whales.

Preliminary phases of the fuel extraction could begin as early as Wednesday if approved by Italian officials, the company said.

Smit, the Rotterdam, Netherlands-based salvage company, said no fuel had leaked from any of the ship’s tanks and the tanks appeared intact. While there is a risk the ship could shift in larger waves, to date it has been relatively stable perched on top of rocks near Giglio’s port.

Smit’s operations manager, Kees van Essen, said the company was confident the fuel could be extracted safely using pumps and valves to vacuum the oil out to waiting tanks.

“But there are always environmental risks in these types of operations,” he told reporters.

The company said any discussion about the fate of the ship — whether it is removed in one piece or broken up — would be decided by Italian ship operator Costa Crociere and its insurance companies.

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