Five days after a cruise liner slammed into rocks off Italy's Tuscan coast, the country is gripped by the contrasting profiles of two key figures in the drama — the captain charged with abandoning ship and the captain who demanded he get back onboard.
For many Italians, the accident has become a metaphor for a country that sees itself mired in economic and moral decline.
Francesco Schettino, the disgraced captain of the 1,000-foot-long floating palace known as the Costa Concordia, is under house arrest on suspicion of multiple manslaughter, shipwreck and abandoning ship.
During the four-minute conversation hours after the collision, an increasingly enraged De Falco orders Schettino to return to the ship and help coordinate the evacuation of the many remaining passengers.
"You've abandoned ship! I'm in charge now," De Falco rages at Schettino, who was apparently in a rowboat at this time. "Go back and report to me how many passengers [are still onboard] and what they need. ... Perhaps you saved yourself from the sea, but I'll make you pay for this, dammit!"
Schettino can be heard trying to refuse the order. "You don't understand, it's dark here. Can't see anything," he says.
"What is it, you want to go home Schettino?" De Falco spits out. "It's dark and you want to go home?"
Eventually De Falco demands: "Go back onboard, dammit!"
De Falco's Italian expletive is actually much harsher than "dammit" — but the line has become a national catchphrase and is Italy's top trending hashtag, or keyword on Twitter.
Minutes after that audio was posted online, Italians had a new hero.
It's sort of interesting how "the captain goes down with the ship" is such a strong cultural norm. Like, the level of opprobrium this guy's been getting is almost like how people react to rapists and murderers.
He claims now that he hit a reef that isn't on the charts
I mean wouldn't it really suck if he did fall into the lifeboat and wanted to get back to the ship but couldn't?How'd his first mate end up in the lifeboat?
I mean wouldn't it really suck if he did fall into the lifeboat and wanted to get back to the ship but couldn't?
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