(GIGLIO, Italy) — 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 prosecutors 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 Moldovan TV, “the captain saved 3,000 to 4,000 people.” She also defended the ship’s crew.
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.”
Schettino was suspended by Costa on Thursday, according to the company’s Milan-based lawyer Marco De Luca.
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.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Andreas Preuss, CNN
Susan Scutti, CNN
Lauren del Valle, CNN
Lorenzo Ferrigno, CNN