(GIGLIO, Italy) — The wife of the captain accused of abandoning the capsized Costa Concordia cruise liner off the Tuscan island of Giglio says that her husband is not the “monster” that has been portrayed in the media and that he is being made a scapegoat.
Fabiola Russo, the wife of Capt. Francesco Schettino, spoke out in a cover story in Oggi, an Italian weekly magazine, which hit newsstands on Wednesday. In the interview, Russo says that her husband is a “maestro,” and that there was a reason he was entrusted with the helm of the Concordia.
“My husband is at the center of an unprecedented global media storm,” Russo said. “I cannot think of any other naval or air tragedy in which the responsible party was treated with such violence. This is a man hunt, people are looking for a scapegoat, a monster. It’s shameful.”
In the interview, Russo, 48, also addresses claims that 52-year-old Schettino, whom the Italian press has dubbed “Captain Coward,” recklessly steered the Concordia to disaster.
“He knows how to do his job, but sometimes even those who know how to do their job can make mistakes — if he did make a mistake,” she said. “He is decisive, stable and lucid. He analyzes situations, understands them and knows how to manage them.”
Russo did however admit in the interview that at one point Schettino was fined for steering a boat too close to the shore.
“Our shared passion is canoeing — to paddle together you have to be in symphony, which is what Francesco and I are,” she said. “But we got fined once, because we took a little motorboat too close to the coast.”
The Costa Concordia capsized on Jan. 13 when it hit rocks near Italy’s Tuscan coast. The cruise liner had 4,200 passengers onboard.
Officials said Tuesday that another body was found in the ship’s wreckage, which brings the total death toll from the Costa Concordia tragedy to 16, leaving 17 victims still missing, including a Minnesota couple.
Schettino, who claimed he tripped into the lifeboat and never meant to abandon the sinking ship, could face criminal charges, including manslaughter and abandoning ship. He told investigators earlier that his actions after the crash were competent and saved lives.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Susan Scutti, CNN
Andreas Preuss, CNN