Cruise Ship Captain Cried Like a Child, Chaplain Says

PHOTO: Francesco Schettino the captain of the luxury cruiser Costa Concordia, which ran aground off Italys Tuscan coast, is seen in this undated file photo.PlayNewscom
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The captain of the capsized luxury liner who refused to reboard his ship cried in the arms of a chaplain for 15 minutes after reaching the safety of shore, the chaplain claims.

"At around 2:30 a.m. I spoke to the captain," chaplain Raffaele Malena told the French magazine "Famille Chretienne." He was talking about last Friday night when Costa Concordia ran aground, killing at least 11 people.

"He embraced me and cried like a child for about a quarter of an hour," Malena told the magazine.

The picture of Francesco Schettino, the captain of the Costa Concordia, sobbing like a child is the latest description of Schettino undergoing an emotional collapse.

An audio tape on the night of the disaster has a coast guard captain exasperated with Schettino for balking at returning to his ship to supervise the evacuation of hundreds of passengers still on board the darkened ocean liner. And a court report recounting that night cites a coast guard official saying Schettino wasn't "lucid."

Capt. Francesco Schettino "Cried Like a Child"

The investigation into the timeline of the crash and a search of the ship proceeded today.

A woman who may be a key witness, hostess Domnica Cemortan, 25, has provided information that conflicts with official accounts.

There are accounts of her on the bridge with Schettino, but there are differing versions of whether she was on the bridge before the crash or was summoned after the crash to help evacuate Russian passengers. Cemortan speaks Russian.

She told Agence France Press that she is ready to testify in court, but has not been contacted by investigators.

"I am staying with my mother and I am not in hiding, ... the prosecutor's office or the Italian police have not contacted me," Cemortan said. "The Costa company have all my information including all my numbers."

She has praised Schettino as a hero for his handling of the ship after it struck rocks, and denies he fled.

"I was one of the last people who got off the ship together with another crew member, and this crew member wrote to me she personally saw the captain at that time helping passengers to get into the boats," Cemortan told JurnalTV.

Her version is contradicted, however, by the coast guard audio tape. Even Schettino concedes he left the ship, although he claims he tripped and fell into a lifeboat being lowered into the sea and could not get out.

The captain doesn't seem to want Cemortan's praise. His lawyer told the Italian newspaper Corriere that Schettino denies that she was next to him during the crisis, saying, "That person was not on the bridge."

Investigators trying to determine what happened are searching websites and social network sites for any video from the ship that would help them reconstruct events of that night, the Italian news agency ANSA reported. At least a dozen videos have already been attached to the prosecutor's legal papers.

The on-again, off-again search for 21 people still missing resumed today with a search of the ship that is above water. Coast guard spokesman Cosimo Nicastro said authorities will determine Saturday morning whether to send divers back into the submerged part of the ship.

Officials have noticed that waves or underwater currents have moved the huge ship slightly and fear that rough waves could nudge it off a ledge it is resting on and send it completely under water.