ROME – A young Moldovan woman who says she was called to the bridge of the stricken Costa Concordia to help evacuate Russian passengers defended the embattled captain on Thursday, saying he worked tirelessly and “saved over 3,000 lives.”
Domnica Cemortan, who says she was translating Capt. Francesco Schettino’s orders during the frenzied evacuation, has emerged as a potential new witness in the investigation into the officer’s actions the night the ship ran aground.
Schettino is under house arrest, facing possible charges of manslaughter, abandoning ship and causing a shipwreck after he made an unauthorized detour from the programmed route that caused the vessel to slam into a reef and capsize off the Tuscan island of Giglio. At least 11 people were killed and 21 are missing.
Meanwhile, a new audiotape of the doomed vessel’s first communications with maritime authorities showed the ship’s officers continued to report only an electrical problem for more than 30 minutes after hitting the reef.
Attention has focused on Cemortan amid reports by crew and passengers that Schettino was seen eating dinner with a Russian-speaking woman at the time of the impact. The 25-year-old Cemortan speaks Russian and had worked as a hostess for the Italian cruise operator, although her contract had expired and she was vacationing with friends when she boarded the luxury liner hours before the Jan. 13 disaster.