Survivors' lawyers question tests after cocaine found on, but not in, hair of Costa Concordia captain

Michael Santo's picture

Tests conducted on the hair of Francesco Schettino, former Captain of the cruise ship Costa Concordia, which famously ran aground and capsized in January show the presence of cocaine on the outside of his head hairs, but notably --- no cocaine IN the hair or in urine samples, which has led to a "huh" moment for lawyers representing some of the passengers of the cruise liner.

Just what these results mean is unclear. However, the consultant who did the analyses of Schettino's hair and urine for prosecutors said that his results were correct as stated. He found no presence of cocaine in either urine samples or within the shaft or follicle of hair itself.

Given that, lawyers representing some of the survivors of the Costa Concordia cruise ship disaster pressed for new drug tests. It called the analyst's finding "very strange" and said that on Friday it asked prosecutors to order new testing to determine if the samples might have been contaminated. Not only the exterior of the hair, but the envelope in which it was stored, showed traces of cocaine.

These lawyers are from the Italian consumer protection group Codacons. Under Italian law, those attaching civil lawsuits to a criminal case must also be kept abreast of evidence and other developments in the case.

The prosecutor analyst, Marcello Chiarotti, was quoted as saying the traces of cocaine on the exterior of Schettino's hair "was a marginal problem that absolutely doesn't invalidate the results of the analysis." Obviously, traces of cocaine in the urine or inside the hair shaft or follicle itself would have pointed to consumption of the drug. The samples were reported to have been taken on Jan. 17, just a few days after the disaster.

The Costa Concordia cruise liner rammed a reef near a Tuscan island the night of Jan. 13. Thirty-two people are believed to have perished in the disaster, including 15 people whose bodies have still not been found.

Schettino continues to be under house arrest in his home near Naples, Italy while an investigation is underway. He is accused of manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning his ship. Schettino himself has denied any wrongdoing in the matter, claiming the reef was not marked on any navigational charts; in addition he has denied abandoning ship, an accusation which alleges he left while many passengers remained aboard the vessel.

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