Italian prosecutors want to question a young Moldovan woman who was with the captain of the doomed luxury liner Costa Concordia during crucial moments of the disaster that killed at least 11 and left 21 missing.
Investigators were told that Domnica Cemortan, 25, was Capt. Francesco Schettino's "shadow" and was with him before, during and after those pivotal moments that prosectutors are trying to piece together when Schettino steered the massive ship onto rocks and then abandoned his ship, according to Italy's TG 5 TV.
Cemortan, who has worked as a cruise ship employee, was on board the ship as a passenger at the time of the accident as a birthday present, she claims. The woman was not assigned a cabin, according to Italy's TG 5 TV and it was unclear if she was a guest of one of the officers.
Schettino, who is now under house arrest, reportedly told a judge that Cemortan was with him and other officers on the bridge at the time of the accident enjoying the view, according to Italian newspaper La Reppublica.
But Cemortan, who has given several interviews to Moldovan media, contradicted the captain's reported statement.
She said she was at dinner with friends on Jan. 14 when the crash occurred and was summoned to the bridge to translate for Russian passengers who were being evacuated.
Cemortan has hailed Schettino as a hero, telling the Moldovan network Jurnal TV, "the captain saved 3,000 to 4,000 people."
She also defended the ship;s crew.
"They did not run away at all, rather the opposite," Cemortan told Romanian news site Adevarul. "It was him that was able to get the ship closer to the shore after the impact to make the evacuation easier."
A preliminary report on the crash by the court in Grosseto, Italy, said that a second officer also faces the possibility of criminal charges.
It cites Ciro Ambrosio, the officer of the watch, as being responsible along with Schettino for steering the ship on the rocks. The reports cites their "imprudence, negligence and incompetence."
The court report presents a scathing view of Schettino, and describes him as being behaving oddly immediately after he came ashore, saying, "the captain did not appear to be lucid."
When questioned on the night of crash at police barracks, a despondent Schettino told police that he intended to "turn over a new leaf and to no longer want to go on ships," the court report stated.
Schettino also told investigators that his actions after the crash were competent and saved lives, and insisted he was "good captain."
The court appears to be dumbfounded by Schettino's claim, and describes his actions after the crash as "worthless."
"That appears to indicate an incredible thoughtlessness in assessing the actual scope of the behaviour engaged in to the detriment of over 4,000 persons entrusted to his responsibilitiy," court documents stated.
"But to this thoughtlessness also must be added the total incapacity to manage the subsequent phases of the emergency created," the document states.
Schettino was suspended by Costa this morning, according to the company's Milan-based lawyer Marco De Luca.
"The Costa Company will present themselves as damaged party in any trial of the ship wreck," De Luca told Ansa.
Search and rescue divers said they believe they have 12 to 24 hours to complete the search before rough waters hit the coast of Giglio, potentially causing the ship to shift position or completely sink.
Eleven people have been confirmed dead and 21 more are missing, including Jerry and Barbara Heil, a couple from Minnesota.