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$1.3M fine in fatal wreck of cruise ship

ROME -- A judge in Tuscany fined Italian cruise line Costa Crociere SpA $1.3 million yesterday for the 2012 shipwreck of the Concordia cruise ship that killed 32 people.

Costa had asked for a plea bargain deal to respond to the administrative sanctions, which under Italian law are for companies whose employees commit crimes.

Judge Valeria Montesarchio of the Grosseto tribunal accepted the plea after a hearing.

Costa, a division of Miami-based Carnival Corp., has sought to blame the disaster entirely on Capt. Francesco Schettino, who took the cruise ship off course and rammed it into a reef off the Tuscan island of Giglio on Jan. 13, 2012.

The stunt left a 230-foot gash in the hull, causing the liner to take on water and capsize.

Grosseto prosecutors are seeking indictments for Schettino and five other people on charges including manslaughter.

A preliminary, closed-door hearing is scheduled for Monday but it was not clear whether the judge would make a decision then on whether to order a trial.

Among the five are the helmsman, two other officials who were on the bridge during the grounding and the Costa official on land who was managing the crisis.

Schettino is accused of manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning the vessel before all the passengers had been evacuated.

Passengers have recounted a harrowing evacuation; by the time the captain ordered passengers to evacuate, the ship was listing so far to one side that many lifeboats couldn't be lowered.

Schettino has depicted himself as a hero, claiming it was his deft steering after the collision that allowed the ship to move closer to the port and helped to save lives. He also maintained the reef was not marked on the ship's navigational charts.

Sailors in the area, however, say the reef is a well-known tourist attraction.

The ship, meanwhile, remains on its side in Giglio's port; efforts to right it and tow it away are under way.

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