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Costa Concordia captain boards stricken ship

By Hada Messia and Marie-Louise Gumuchian, CNN
February 27, 2014 -- Updated 1617 GMT (0017 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Captain boards cruise liner two years after it crashed off Italian coast
  • Francesco Schettino went aboard vessel with expert team investigating accident
  • Schettino faces manslaughter charges after 32 people died in the 2012 shipwreck
  • The wreckage of the cruise liner is now stabilized after a complex salvage

Rome (CNN) -- The captain of the Costa Concordia went back on board Thursday for the first time since the cruise liner crashed into the rocks off Italy's Giglio island, killing 32 people.

As part of his trial, Francesco Schettino, who faces multiple charges including manslaughter and abandoning ship, went aboard the vessel with an expert team appointed by the court and was present as a defendant. He denies any wrongdoing in the accident.

Wearing sunglasses, Schettino toured the ship for four hours. Speaking to journalists afterward, he said he could not comment on the survey aboard the wreck.

"I have taken responsibilities for my actions and am undergoing a trial," he said.

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Schettino's lawyers had asked the court to allow him to accompany the experts as they examined the ship's emergency generators. They are also looking to see if anything other than human error could have contributed to the accident.

Witnesses said Schettino jumped into a lifeboat to flee the ship, even though hundreds of passengers were still on board. In his trial, the captain said he fell into a lifeboat when the ship listed sharply.

He also blamed a malfunction of the ship's watertight doors for making the situation worse by letting in water after the rocks tore into the vessel's hull. His attorneys also say the ship would not have crashed had the helmsman turned it in the direction that Schettino told him to 13 seconds before impact.

Complex recovery

The wreckage of the cruise liner, now stabilized after a complex salvage operation last year, sits propped up on underwater platforms just outside the port of Giglio, off the Tuscan coast.

It was carrying 4,200 people when it hit a reef January 13, 2012.

Journalists and photographers swarmed Schettino as he arrived for a briefing on the island ahead of the tour of the ship.

The raising of the Costa Concordia last September was one of the most complex shipwreck recoveries ever undertaken. In a lengthy process involving massive pulleys, cables and steel tanks, a salvage crew managed to roll the 114,00-ton vessel off the rocks.

In an interview on Italian television last year, Schettino said he had felt pain over the victims' deaths every day since the disaster.

Testimony: Hundreds still on board as captain left Costa Concordia

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