An Italian court will begin hearings on Monday to determine who could stand trial for a cruise ship disaster that left 32 people dead, amid accusations of safety breaches and fatal delays.
Hundreds of lawyers, scientific experts and survivors from the Costa Concordia tragedy in January are expected to attend the hearing in the Tuscan city of Grosseto, not far from where the giant liner lies beached.
The ship's captain Francesco Schettino, five crew members and three managers from ship owner Costa Crociere are under investigation. The court will review expert findings into the crash before ruling on who, if anyone, should stand trial.
Schettino, who was described by Italian media as "Italy's most hated man" in the wake of the January 13 shipwreck, is accused of delaying the evacuation and then abandoning ship before all the 4,229 people on board had been rescued.
He was placed under house arrest on the Amalfi coast after the crash, but was released on probation in July and has not been formally charged.
The captain could face a multiple manslaughter charge for performing a risky "salute" manoeuvre close to Giglio island where the ship hit rocks and failing to inform the authorities, causing a fatal delay in the ship's evacuation.
The other crew members who could face trial are the ship's second-in-command, three officers who were on the bridge when the crash happened, and a safety official who told the coastguard the ship had merely suffered a blackout.
Experts will present their analysis of data from the ship's "black box" and other equipment on board, followed by statements from forensic police.
Some of the 126 lawyers representing survivors may also take the stand in the closed-door hearing, which is expected to last several days.
Schettino, one of the officers and all three Costa executives are likely to be present, according to Italian media reports.
Schettino has insisted it was his skilled manoeuvring that stopped the ship from hitting the rocks head on. He also said a "divine hand" had guided him.
The widely mocked captain also denies abandoning ship, insisting that he did not leave it voluntarily but tripped and fell into a life boat.
"Madonna, what have I done?", he was heard to exclaim in leaked audio recordings from the ship's bridge just seconds after the crash at 9:45 pm.
In a panicked call to another officer he asked, "Are we really going down?", but minutes later gave the order to tell passengers there had been a blackout.
"My career as a captain is over," he told his wife by phone from the listing vessel before finally sending a distress signal at 10:34 pm, and giving the order to abandon ship at 10:58 pm, as passengers scrambled into life boats.
Recordings of Schettino's tense conversation with the coastguard on the night of the tragedy revealed how he refused point blank to return on board, and survivors said he had been sitting on dry land while the ship keeled over.
"Get back on board now, for (expletive) sake!" the coastguard is heard shouting.
In an interview in July, the captain blamed his crew members, saying he was distracted but someone on the bridge should have spotted the offshore reef.
He said he did not "feel like I committed a crime" but asked forgiveness.
A pre-trial report, commissioned by the judge and leaked in the Italian press in September, heaps blame on Schettino but also points the finger at Costa Crociere, Europe's biggest cruise operator, for failing to act promptly.
Roberto Ferrarini, Costa's crisis coordinator who was in contact with Schettino, "did not appear to have the real pulse of the conditions on the ship" despite having all the important information at his disposal, the report found.
The order to abandon ship came almost half an hour after Ferrarini was informed, but Costa Crociere has said it was Schettino's blunder not theirs.
The report also said the crew members were unprepared for emergencies -- leading to a chaotic and slow evacuation -- and language barriers between crew members had meant that crucial orders on and below deck were misunderstood.
Survivors have launched legal actions against the ship's owners in France, Germany and the United States, including a $528-million (400-million-euro) lawsuit in the US state of Florida, home of parent company, Carnival Corporation.
The ghostly wreck of the 114,500-tonne luxury cruise liner Costa Concordia is still beached on its side off Giglio island. A salvage team is working to stabilise and refloat the rusting hulk which should be removed by spring.