Costa Concordia captain Francesco Schettino defended his actions at a pre-trial hearing on Thursday, recalling the terrifying night of a cruise ship tragedy that claimed 32 lives.
Schettino went through "step by step the orders he had given in the moments before and after the crash and why he had given them," a participant at the closed-door hearing in Grosseto in central Italy told AFP.
The captain, widely attacked for apparently abandoning the cruise liner before the evacuation was complete, said he had given clear orders to the helmsman in the moments before the ship hit a reef, the participant said on condition of anonymity.
The hearing was the latest in a series that began on Monday and will pave the way for a trial expected next year into the January 13 ship disaster, which happened with 4,229 people on board from dozens of countries.
Some survivors have attended the hearings and said they were still traumatised nine months after the crash near the Tuscan island of Giglio, which sparked a panicked night-time evacuation from the sinking cruise ship.
A total of 10 people are being investigated including Schettino and six other crew members, as well as three managers from ship owner Costa Crociere, which is part of the world's biggest cruise operator, US-based Carnival.
Nobody has been formally charged with any crimes so far related to the disaster. Investigators have until January, a year after the shipwreck, to press charges.
The drama of the upcoming trial began to emerge this week, with a clear stand-off between Schettino and Costa Crociere over responsibilities.
"Many things were said today in Schettino's defence which frankly were not reliable," Costa Crociere's lawyer Marco De Luca said Thursday, adding that the captain was trying to blame others who had been with him on the bridge that night.
"The navigation code, the procedural code, international organisations of every kind state the responsibility for every decision lies with the captain.
"Offloading responsibility for the most delicate decisions and everything that followed onto his subordinates does not seem very honourable," he said.
One of the key questions to work out will be why the order to evacuate the ship was given such a long time after the crash -- a delay that investigators see as a potentially fatal factor in the tragedy.
The hearings, held in a theatre to accommodate many attendees, had been expected to wrap up Thursday but will drag over into Friday, lawyers said.
The sessions have focused on a report by technical experts who analysed data recordings, orders given by the captain and phone conversations.
A copy of the report obtained by AFP put much of the blame for the accident on Schettino, saying he had tried "an extremely risky manoeuvre".
The report found that Schettino ordered a change in the ship's course to carry out a "salute" to Giglio -- a seafaring tradition in Italy -- and arrived on the bridge when the liner was only two nautical miles from the island.
It said that fellow officers failed to warn the captain that the ship was too close to the shore and travelling too fast and that the helmsman mistakenly steered right instead of left moments before the impact.
After the liner hit the rock, tearing a massive gash in its hull, Schettino provided "false information" to the authorities about the situation on board and declared an emergency only after "considerable delay", the report said.
It also said Costa Crociere "after learning from the captain of the ship of the situation, did not put itself at the disposal of the relevant authorities".
But Costa's lawyer De Luca said the hearings had shown his client had "very exhaustive ordinary and emergency management procedures."
While Schettino's side of the conversation with Costa's fleet crisis coordinator was recorded, there is no record of the response he got.
The experts also found Costa Crociere "could not have provided any technical assistance, considering the speed with which the ship flooded and ran aground".
The ghostly wreck of the liner is still beached on its side just a few dozen metres from the shore of Giglio island. Salvage crews are working flat out to stabilise and refloat the hulk by next year in an unprecedented operation.
But the US company Titan tasked with removing the wreck in the biggest ever marine salvage project of its kind said there were major delays.
"The initial timeline is going to be blown out of the water," Nick Sloane, Titan's senior salvage master, said at the site of the operation.
The island's mayor Sergio Ortelli said Giglio "is suffering serious economic blows which could bring the whole community to its knees".
The 290-metre (951-foot) Costa Concordia weighs in at 114,500 gross tonnes, making it the largest passenger shipwreck by tonnage in history.