The captain of the Italian cruise liner who crashed the boat into rocks off the Tuscan coast last Friday, killing 11 and leaving 28 more missing, claimed at a hearing yesterday that he "tripped" into a lifeboat.

"The passengers were pouring on to the decks, taking the lifeboats by assault," captain Francesco Schettino said, according The Guardian.

"I didn't even have a life jacket because I had given it to one of the passengers. I was trying to get people to get into the boats in an orderly fashion. Suddenly, since the ship was at a 60-70° angle, I tripped and I ended up in one of the boats. That's how I found myself in the lifeboat."

Schettino, who allegedly steered the boat dangerously close to the rocks as a gesture to a head waiter's family, admitted, "I made a mistake on the approach…I knew the depths well…but this time I ordered the turn too late and ended up in the water that was too shallow…I was a victim of my instincts."

The disgraced captain remains in police custody as divers continue searching for missing passengers, including an American couple from Minnesota. Schettino also noted that he was open to taking drug tests. "I don't do drugs and I had not drunk." He was caught on tape obstinately refusing to a commander to re-board the ship to assist passengers, at one point, and is facing possible manslaughter charges.

New Yorkers who were onboard the ship paint a chaotic picture. “I was more afraid of panicked people than the sinking ship,” Joan Fleser Aho told the Post. “We were at dinner and had just been served our appetizer when he heard a horrendous crashing noise, a boom and then bank and the ship had a violent list to the port side." Aho added, “If you saw the movie ‘Titanic’ that’s exactly what it looked like.”

An Italian consumer rights association announced that more than 70 passengers have joined a class-action suit against the owners of the Costa Concordia. "Our objective is to get each passenger at least €10,000 [$12,773] compensation for material damage and also for ... the fear suffered, the holidays ruined and the serious risks endured," a spokesman for the organization said.

According to the AP, the Italian coast guard has suspended rescue operations temporarily today because the ship has slightly shifted, compromising the safety of the rescuers. “As a precautionary measure, we stopped the operations this morning, in order to verify the data we retrieved from our detectors, and understand if there actually was a movement, and if there has been one, how big this was,” a coast guard spokesman said.