Eleven people died when the Costa Concordia cruise ship crashed into rocks off the cost of Italy last week, and partially sank.  And 23 people are still missing.

The captain of the ship . . . Francesco Schettino . . . ABANDONED SHIP and wound up safely on a LIFEBOAT. 

They are blaming him for the crash, since he recklessly steered the ship too close to shore.

His Excuse???   He says he ended up in a rescue boat because he TRIPPED AND FELL INTO IT.

Quote, "The passengers were pouring onto the decks, taking the lifeboats by assault.  I didn't even have a lifejacket because I had given it to one of the passengers.

"Suddenly, the ship was at a 60- to 70-degree angle, I tripped, and I ended up in one of the boats."  He says he was stuck in the boat for an hour before it was lowered into the water.

His second- and third-in-command were both on the same lifeboat . . . I guess maybe they tripped and fell into it too.

(The Telegraph)