Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | January 20, 2012

To Do a Schettino

The sinking of the Costa Concordia cruise ship continues to make headlines, especially the actions of the ship’s captain, Francesco Schettino. The 52-year-old captain admitted during interrogations that he took the ship off course to salute a former colleague. This course change took the ship dangerously close to the Tuscan island of Giglio where the ship, twice the size of the Titanic, struck the rocks and began to take on water. However, Schettino failed to take immediate action. Records show that he ordered dinner and delayed implementing any evacuation measures. However, when the ship began to list to one side, Schettino was among the passengers in a lifeboat. Of course, he told authorities that he slipped and fell into the lifeboat. Really? Perhaps the most damning evidence are the recorded exchanges between Schettino and the Italian Coast Guard official who told him, in no uncertain terms, to get back on board the ship to coordinate evacuation and rescue efforts.

So much for the maritime maxim, “The captain goes down with the ship!” Schettino’s shameful behavior is accentuated by stories of other crew members who acted bravely in the face of danger. The drummer of the ship’s band gave up his seat on a lifeboat to a young boy. That drummer is among the 21 missing or may be added to the roster of the 11 dead. Another officer is reported to have helped several passengers before he broke his leg. And, a Bulgarian crew member is credited with having rescued as many as 500 passengers. All of this while the captain was absent from the vessel under his command and the 4,000 passengers under his care. Schettino could have possibly redeemed himself had he stayed aboard the ship, coordinated the evacuation and rescue efforts, and been the last man off the ship. Instead, because of his selfish actions, he is now regarded as a national embarrassment in his own country. And, his name is already showing signs of becoming a by-word for shameful and stupid behavior — “To do a Schettino.”

Life’s unexpected crises have a way of revealing what we are made of. And, for better or for worse, our responses during those crises have a way of defining who we are. Schettino will spend a lifetime living with the painful specter of his actions. This mariner was apparently driven by a strong sense of self-preservation, so strong that it trumped his concern for the welfare of the passengers entrusted into his care. Excuses and rationalizations will not change what happened or how he responded. He made choices that endangered the lives of his passengers, cast him in a bad light, and will consign him to years of humiliation. Being the captain of a ship is a big responsibility and one that calls for counting the cost. Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (Jn. 15:13). It’s possible that somewhere in the waters around the island of Giglio is the body of a man who did just that, a guy who played the drums in the band but who put the welfare of a little boy above his own. Thankfully for that little boy, the drummer of the band acted more nobly than the captain. He did not do a Schettino.


  1. Wow Omar, another masterpiece! Thank you.

  2. Did the authorties do a toxicology or drug screen on the captain? Ordering dinner when being advised that your ship is in trouble, seems rather bizarre.


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