Shipwreck, prosecutor investigates rescued delays

(from the correspondent Elvira Terranova) – After the silences, the passing of the buck, the underestimations of the rescue services on the night of the shipwreck of Steccato di Cutro (Crotone), which cost the lives of 67 victims and dozens of missing, now it is the Public Prosecutor’s Office, which is already investigating on the shipwreck, to shed light on what happened in the almost six hours of hole, between 11.03 pm on Saturday 25 February, when Frontex signaled the presence of the boat and 4.10 am on Sunday 26 February, when the alarm went off from the boat to 112. Moments later the boat disintegrated. The Prosecutor Giuseppe Capoccia, as anticipated by Adnkronos, has opened a file with the prosecutor Pasquale Festa, at the moment against unknown persons and without the hypothesis of a crime. The proxy was given by the Prosecutor to the Carabinieri who are already collecting material, acquiring documents from the Coast Guard and the Guardia di Finanza. Documents upon documents. To be able to fill that gap of six hours.

Could the migrants who died in the shipwreck be saved? Including many children and many women? Already in the next few hours the investigation could have some developments with the entry in the register of suspects of some names. Perhaps excellent. The file was opened to allow the Carabinieri to be delegated to acquire the documents on the matter from the Harbor Master’s Office and the Guardia di Finanza. After analyzing the papers, the Prosecutor’s Office could decide to open a file with a specific crime hypothesis.

Yesterday the Commander of the Port Authority of Crotone, Vittorio Aloi, speaking with journalists who asked him if the Coast Guard has already been heard by the Public Prosecutor’s Office, replied: “We will be heard and we will be pleased to clarify, we will clarify who owes it to us when they will ask”. It is likely, at this point, that it will be heard soon. And when asked why they didn’t act despite the report the night before, Saturday 25 February, of a ‘distress’ vessel, i.e. in danger, in the Ionian, he replied: “I don’t know that it was a distress report, you know that the operations are conducted by the Guardia di Finanza until they become communications from Sar (rescue ed). I have not received any reports”. In short, other rebounds of responsibility.

The prosecutors try to understand if there have been any omissions

“If and when we are called to give our version of documents in hand, rough drafts, etc., we will report”, Aloi then added, not without underlining that that night “there was sea force 4” but that “the Coast Guard patrol boats would have able to navigate even with sea force 8”. Today the prosecutor’s turning point with the opening of a file on the rescue machine. The magistrates will try to understand if there have been omissions, as some claim. Also because the versions provided by the rescuers are all conflicting.

Let’s rewind the tape once again: It is 11.03 pm on Saturday 25 February, when Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, issues a report. The Eagle 1 aircraft indicates the presence of a boat of migrants 38 miles southeast of Capo Rizzuto, “with a person visible on deck”, which “proceeded at a speed of 6 knots”. And that “it did not highlight elements that would suggest a unit in distress”, as the Coast Guard then writes in the report that will be sent to the Public Prosecutor’s Office. The Coast Guard also announced that “as always in these cases, we immediately informed the International Coordination Center and the other competent Italian authorities of the sighting, providing the vessel’s position, course and speed”.

And the role of the Guardia di Finanza? After reporting by Frontex, the Gdf sends a patrol boat and a patrol boat to intercept. Here too there is a report: “At around 3.40 the Operations Room of the Provincial Police Command of Vibo Valentia communicated to the Maritime Authority of Reggio Calabria that the two naval units of the Guardia di Finanza were forced to interrupt navigation due to adverse conditions weather marine. The room operators requested the same Authority for the intervention of their own naval units to reach the target, without receiving a response”. And here again different versions.

Coast Guard and Gdf reports from that night

In the meantime, the Coast Guard says that at 3.48, “the Guardia di Finanza of Vibo Valentia informs our people in Reggio Calabria that the vehicles are turning back due to the adverse weather conditions. They asked us if we had operational units in the area, we we replied that at the moment we did not have any in operational activity but that we would have used them if they asked us for help”. The task of the Prosecutor’s Office will now be to shed light on what happened that night. And why the very powerful means of the Coast Guard never left the port, until after 4.30, that is, after the phone call from the boat. The call, taken by Deputy Brigadier Lorenzo Nicoletta, comes from the boat which is located less than a hundred meters from the coast of Steccato di Cutro (Crotone). The Carabinieri of the Nucleo Radiomobile arrive on the spot, led by Lieutenant Andrea Stallone, but they immediately understand the seriousness of the fact. The deputy brigadier Gianrocco Tievoli and the carabiniere Gioacchino Fazio throw themselves into the water in uniform and manage to save five migrants. But before their eyes are bodies everywhere. Even a six month old baby. ” I took him in my arms hoping that he was still alive ”, Tievoli will tell the magistrates. Instead the baby was already dead. Like the pair of twins. And many other innocent victims, including a six-year-old Syrian boy who died of hypothermia while his twenty-year-old brother survived and is now in shock.

The Prosecutor of Crotone, led by Capoccia, is now trying to understand if there were any failures to rescue that night. At the moment there is not yet a crime hypothesis. But the Carabinieri are collecting information, delegating the Carabinieri of Crotone who are investigating that night.

Was it a tragic misjudgment? Or an intervention assumed too late? These are some of the questions that the investigators who opened the file are asking themselves. Yesterday evening, from Bruno Vespa, the head of the Coast Guard Communications, Cosimo Nicastro, broke the silence and said: “It was an unpredictable tragedy in the light of the information that was received. The elements of which we and the Guardia di Finanza did not assume that there was a dangerous situation for the occupants. No telephone reports had arrived either from on board or from family members”. Frontex’ report “was forwarded to the International Coordination Center, which is the contact point not for search and rescue operations but for police operations at sea”. he also explained that when the Finance patrol boats returned to port there was radio contact between the Port Authority of Reggio Calabria and the Guardia di Finanza. And “no critical situations are reported that suggest that the police operation is turning into an emergency operation”. But “the Coast Guard begins to activate its entire chain so that the Sar device is prepared”. Now the word goes to Prosecutor Capoccia, who kept his cell phone switched off throughout the day today.