An Italian court yesterday accepted plea bargains ranging from 18 to 34 months in prison for five suspects in the Costa Concordia cruise ship disaster, media reported.
The five include Roberto Ferrarini, the director of ship owner Costa Crociere's crisis unit, Jacob Rusli Bin, the luxury liner's Indonesian helmsman, as well as a deputy of Captain Francesco Schettino and two other crew members.
Schettino, who is accused of multiple manslaughter and abandoning ship, is currently the only one standing trial for the deadly accident off Giglio island in Tuscany which claimed 32 lives in January last year.
On Wednesday, when Schettino's trial opened, his lawyers requested a sentencing deal of three years and five months in prison for admitting responsibility but were refused. They renewed the request yesterday.
Civil plaintiffs who want to see justice served for their lost loved ones have expressed fury over the clemency offered Schettino's co-defendants.
"We were expecting this, but these plea bargains are unfair," Daniele Bocciolini, one of the plaintiffs' lawyers, told La Repubblica newspaper. "They and Schettino are obviously not getting the same treatment. He should not be the only culprit."
Under the plea agreements accepted by the court in Grosseto in the central Tuscany region, Ferrarini received the longest sentence of two years and 10 months in prison.
Manrico Giampedroni, the cabin service director, faces two years and six months in prison, while captain's deputy Ciro Ambrosio got one year and 11 months.
Rusli Bin, the liner's Indonesian helmsman who misunderstood the captain's orders at the moment of the crash, received a year and eight months in jail and officer Silvia Coronica got one year and six months, the shortest sentence.
Audio from the ship's black box revealed the chaos on the bridge on the night of the shipwreck, when Rusli was steering the huge liner and Schettino had ordered a risky "salute" manoeuvre near the island.
In the recordings, when the crew realises the vessel is bearing down on rocks jutting out of the sea near Giglio, Schettino can be heard yelling "hard to port" while Ambrosio appears to yell "hard to starboard". The helmsman, who did not speak English or Italian fluently, is heard asking "hard to starboard?"
By the time Schettino had repeated his order it was too late to right the Concordia's course.
The liner crashed into the Giglio rocks on the night of January 13, 2012, with 4,229 people from 70 countries on board, keeling over and sparking a panicked and delayed evacuation which saw some people forced to throw themselves into cold waters.
On Thursday, the court admitted a new video as evidence in the trial. Prosecutors said the footage from surveillance cameras aboard the ship would show what happened during the various stages of the disaster - from the crash to the evacuation order and the ship's capsizing.
The Grosseto court set the next hearings in Schettino's trial for September 23 to 27. The video will be shown in court during the hearings to follow.