Cruise Ship Captain: I Fell Into Lifeboat

'Cocaine Found On Concordia Captain's Hair'

The captain of the stricken cruise ship Costa Concordia has told investigators he "fell into a lifeboat" during the evacuation and could not get out again.

Francesco Schettino gave the excuse during three hours of questioning with an investigating magistrate before he was released from custody and given house arrest.

The skipper, 52, was arrested on Saturday on suspicion of manslaughter and abandoning the cruise liner while passengers were still onboard.

The death toll from Friday night's disaster now stands at 11, while 28 others including 24 passengers and four crew are still missing.

Schettino 's behaviour has been further called into question after dramatic audio tapes revealed he was ordered back onto the ship to oversee the rescue.

A furious coastguard was shocked to learn he had already left the Concordia despite dozens of passengers still needing help.

:: Click here for our graphic sequence to find out how the cruise liner ended up on its side

During his hearing with investigating magistrate Valeria Montesarchio at a court in Grosseto, Schettino again insisted that he had "not abandoned ship".

He said: "The passengers were rushing all over the decks trying to scramble into the lifeboats. I didn't even have a lifejacket because I had given it to one of the passengers.

"I was trying to get them into the lifeboats in an orderly fashion. All of a sudden the boat listed between 60-70 degrees, I got trapped and ended up in one of the lifeboats. That's why I was in there.

"Once it was over the side, the boat wouldn't lower down into the water because it was blocked by one underneath."

He also claimed he had "saved thousands of lives," although he admitted making a mistake by sailing so close to the island of Giglio which led to a 70m gash being ripped in the ship's hull.

Prosecutors said his explanation was "curious to say the least" and added that he would also be subjected to drug and alcohol tests as part of the investigation.

Schettino, who has been labelled the "most hated man in Italy", is now back at his home in Meta di Sorrento near Naples after being released from Grosseto jail.

He was driven there through the night with a police escort and accompanied by his wife Fabiola and other family members.

When the group arrived, he entered the house through a side gate and refused to speak to a crowd of waiting journalists.

Prosecutors said they were "surprised" the captain had been allowed out on house arrest but his lawyer Bruno Leporatti said: "You cannot send a man to jail just because the public want it."

Another captain, Roberto Bosio, who was off duty when disaster struck, has been hailed a hero after giving the order to abandon ship.

Capt Bosio, 45, who was seen helping dozens of women and children into lifeboats, has broken his silence, saying: "Only a disgraceful man would have left all those passengers on board."

He added: "It was the most horrible experience of my life. A tragedy, a heartache that I will carry with me forever.

"We managed to avoid the worse and have the world crash down around us. I just want to rest and forget.

"Don't call me a hero. I just did my duty, the duty of a sea captain - actually the duty of a normal man. I and the others with me just did our duty. We looked each other in the eyes for a second and then we just got on with it."

Back at the wreck site, rescuers have had to suspend their search again after the Costa Concordia shifted slightly in rough seas.

The teams are racing against time as the weather is set to turn stormy on Thursday with waves of up to two metres forecast as well as storm force winds.

They had been set to continue using more explosive charges around the superstructure to make it easier for diving teams to reach other areas.

Attention will focus mainly on the restaurant on deck four at the back of the Concordia where five more bodies were found on Tuesday.

Once the search winds down, salvage teams are also expected to begin pumping off 2,280 tons of heavy duty diesel that is still in the ship's tanks.