Rome - The captain of the Costa Concordia refused an offer to get back aboard the shipwrecked cruise liner that he had abandoned before it had been fully evacuated, an Italian court was told on Monday.
On the night of 13 January 2012, the Concordia took a detour near the island of Giglio, allegedly to please a member of the crew whose relatives live there.
It hit a reef and partially capsized, leading to the death of 32 of the 4 229 people on board.
"I went to the cliff where [captain Francesco] Schettino was along with other survivors, about a hundred of them," firefighter commander Carlo Galli said at the trial against Schettino, which is taking place in Grosseto, in central Italy.
"I told him I would take him to the port of Giglio to climb on a dinghy boat that would take him near the Concordia, and possibly allow him to climb back aboard. But he said no, he told me he needed to stay there to control his ship," Galli added.
"When I repeated the invitation, telling him I could bring him close to the ship, another Concordia officer who was there with him said it was a good idea to try to get back on board. Schettino once again said no, that he needed to stay there."
Schettino earned a worldwide reputation for cowardice when, in the aftermath of the disaster, it emerged that he disobeyed orders from rescue officials to climb back aboard.
He later claimed that he had abandoned the vessel because he had slipped into a lifeboat.
Abandoning ship is one of the several charges levelled against Schettino. He faces other serious accusations, such as causing a disaster, lying to emergency services about its scale, and bungling evacuation procedures.