On January 13, the Costa Concordia was sunk by a killer wave.

But the wave wasn’t made of water–it was a friendly, harmless wave from the head waiter of the ship to his family on the nearby island.

As a “favor” to the ship’s head waiter, the captain of the Costa Concordia veered slightly off course and towards a rocky coastline that would deal a fatal blow to the ship.

This was not a freak accident–this is akin to driving your car into a steep ravine so that your friend in the passenger seat can wave “hello!” to his cousin a few hundred yards away. You could call it human error, you could call it a miscalculation, but you’d be missing the very accurate conclusion that the word “stupidity” is called for in this case.

Capt. Francesco Schettino

In general, the entire incident doesn’t bode well for Captain Francesco Schettino, who violated the cardinal rule of captaining by abandoning his own sinking ship while passengers struggled to save their lives. When the Port Authority managed to get him on the phone, he all but outright refused to get back on board. Here’s a brief transcript from an unconfirmed recording between the Coast Guard and the captain:

Coast Guard: “Listen Schettino, perhaps you have saved yourself from the sea but I will make you look very bad. I will make you pay for this. Dammit, go back on board!”

(Noise can be heard in the background where other Coast Guard officers are shouting to each other in the same room about “the ship, the ship”)

Captain Schettino: “Please ….”

Coast Guard: “There is no please about it. Go back on board. Assure me you are going back on board!”

Captain Schettino: “I am on a life boat of rescue, I am under here. I am not going anywhere. I am here.”

Coast Guard: “What are you doing captain?”

Captain Schettino: “I am here to coordinate the rescue …” (Coast Guard interrupts him)

Coast Guard: “What are you coordinating there! Go on board! Coordinate the rescue from on board! Are you refusing?”

Captain Schettino: “No, I am not refusing.”

Coast Guard: “Are you refusing to go on board, captain? Tell me the reason why you are not going back on board.”

Captain Schettino:: ” (inaudible)… there is a another life boat … ” (Coast Guard interrupts him again)

Coast Guard (screaming): “You go back on board! That is an order! There is nothing else for you to consider. You have sounded the ‘abandon ship’. Now I am giving the orders. Go back on board. Is that clear? Don’t you hear me?”

Captain Schettino: “I am going on board.”

Coast Guard: “Go! Call me immediately when you are on board. My rescue people are in front of the bow.”

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