4 more put under investigation in ferry fire; Charred wreckage reaches Italy after long tow

IndustriesAssociated Press

Four more maritime officials were put under formal investigation Friday as a charred ferry was towed into the Italian port of Brindisi and authorities prepared to search it for possible more dead.

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The blaze that broke out Sunday and torched the Norman Atlantic ferry has killed at least 11 people. Italy says 477 people were rescued, most by helicopters that plucked survivors off the top deck in gale-force winds and carried them to nearby boats.

The probe into the disaster widened Friday. In addition to the ship's captain and the head of the company that built the ferry — both Italians — the prosecutor's office in Bari put two other crew members and two representatives of the Greek ferry line Anek, which rented the Norman Atlantic, under investigation, the Italian news agency ANSA reported.

Towing the ferry overnight across the choppy seas of the Adriatic took 17 hours.

Tugboat company owner Giuseppe Barretta told The Associated Press in Brindisi that firefighters and a prosecutor will be the first to go aboard later Friday to search it in case there are any bodies on board as well as begin inspection for what caused the blaze.

Prosecutors fear unregistered migrants were smuggled aboard in trucks and might have perished in the flames and smoke.

Italian newspapers, reportedly quoting from transcripts of the ferry captain's questioning Wednesday by prosecutors, said Capt. Argilio Giacomazzi told prosecutors that crews didn't properly follow his orders in lowering the lifeboats and that the car deck had too many vehicles.

Bari prosecutors have declined to say what the captain told them, citing laws governing investigations.