Associated Press
Francesco Schettino

ROME — The captain of the shipwrecked Costa Concordia said in an interview broadcast Tuesday that he was distracted by a phone conversation shortly before the cruise liner crashed into a reef off an Italian island and capsized, killing 32 people.

Francesco Schettino described the collision to private Italian TV channel Canale 5 as a "banal accident" in which "destiny" played a role.

An Italian judge last week lifted Schettino's house arrest order, but said he must remain in his hometown near Naples during a criminal investigation in which he is accused of manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning the liner while many passengers and crew were still aboard.

Prosecutors have alleged that the Concordia cruised too close to the island in a publicity stunt, and shortly before it rammed the reef Schettino was on the phone with a retired sea captain on Giglio.

"I blame myself for being distracted," Schettino said when asked about the phone call.

Schettino on Tuesday appeared to want to lessen his role, insisting that another official, and not he, was at the helm of the ship at the moment it rammed the reef.

"At that moment, I went up to the bridge. I ordered the navigation to be manual, and I didn't have the command. The navigation was being directed by a (lower) official," Schettino said.

"This is a banal accident in which destiny found space right in the interaction among human beings," Schettino added, apparently referring to the various officials on the bridge involved in the maneuver.