Mental Distractions: Captain in COSTA CONCORDIA Accident Prioritized Favor for Crewmember Over Safety of Ship

Boater distraction often involves a tangible object, like a cell phone. Sometimes, however, a boater’s daydreams or thoughts serve as a distraction. When a boat operator’s mind strays from safely piloting the vessel, the operator has become mentally distracted. The recent and tragic cruise ship accident in which the COSTA CONCORDIA capsized off the coast of Italy apparently involved at least some degree of mental distraction.

According to media reports, Captain Francesco Schettino deviated from the ship’s authorized course to pass near Giglio for the ship’s head waiter, Antonello Tievoli, who is from the island. Tievoli apparently had to cover for a sick coworker and was unable to disembark a week prior as planned. Although reports indicate Tievoli did not request the maneuver, he did call his father to say the ship would be passing by around 9:30 and would come give a whistle to say hello.

It appears the idea of taking the ship close to Tievoli’s homeland distracted Schettino from acting in the best interests of his roughly 4,200 passengers. He chose to stray from the authorized course he knew to be safe, prioritizing a nautical “fly by” over safety. Schettino made a similar maneuver in August 2011 — preauthorized — so he may not have anticipated any danger. However, sticking to the approved route would have been the surest way to maintain the ship’s safety.

It is important for boaters to avoid mental distractions, because such distractions can prompt risky decisions — such as an unauthorized cruise ship maneuver — or prevent a boater from noticing other vessels or dangerous conditions.

Anyone injured in this cruise ship disaster or whose loved one is dead or missing should contact a Boston maritime attorney about a possible cause of action. It is important to act quickly, because filing time limits may apply.

Latti & Anderson LLP – Boston maritime trial lawyers