Italian media reported today that a mystery woman was on the bridge alongside cowardly captain Francesco Schettino when Costa Concordia cruise ship ran aground off Giglio island on Friday night.
The blonde woman is a 25-year-old Moldovan crew member who was not properly identified by investigators as she reportedly did not appear on any official manifest for the Costa Concordia.
The woman was identified as passenger rep Domnica Cemortan, possibly hired without a proper contract. Reports speculated she may have been on the bridge because Captain Francesco Schettino was trying to impress her.
Prosecutor Francesco Verusio had asked police to try and trace the woman, pictured on the doomed Costa Concordia just before it left Civitavecchia harbor on the evening it ran aground.
Domnica Cemortan is swiftly emerging as a key witness to the chain of events up until the liner struck an underwater reef just off the island of Giglio.
Witnesses have said that she appeared to know Francesco Schettino.
But a statement from Costa Cruises later confirmed Domnica Cemortan was an authorized passenger.
The statement said: “Costa Cruises would like to clarify that the law as it stands, safety regulations and the control systems applied meticulously by the company do not permit the embarkation of unregistered passengers.
“Based on the pictures broadcast by the media, the woman stated as being in the company of Captain Schettino on the evening of January 13th was certainly embarked on January 13th in Civitavecchia and duly registered.
“The company is ready to provide the authorities, when requested, with the identity of the person and the number of the ticket purchased.”
Investigators want to find out where Domnica Cemortan was at the moment the Costa Concordia hit the rocks.
There is also the possibility Domnica Cemortan would have key evidence on what happened in the moments after the fatal “sail by” which was apparently carried out by Francesco Schettino as a “salute” to a former captain.
It is believed that Domnica Cemortan, from Chisnau, Moldova, was working as a passenger rep for Costa Cruises and gave a brief interview to the media defending Francesco Schettino, adding that his actions had helped save the lives of holidaymakers and crew.
Domnica Cemortan has also said in an interview on Moldovan TV that she did have dinner with the captain, but that she went to the bridge after the impact to give instructions to Russian speaking passengers.
Italian newspapers suggested that she was the blonde woman seen dining with Francesco Schettino at around 9:00 p.m. – just under 30 minutes before the disaster – but there is also the possibility she may have been the guest of another officer on the liner.
Last night in a bizarre twist a male passenger had to be taken off the Costa Concordia’s sister ship Serena after suffering a heart attack as the liner sailed past Giglio at the start of a seven-day cruise.
Searching has resumed on the stricken vessel with divers focusing primarily on the stern by the deck four restaurant muster station, where the majority of the 21 people still listed as missing were thought to be.