Cherchez la femme: mystery woman emerges from Costa Concordia wreck

crime | Jan 19, 2012 | By Martin Barillas

A mystery has emerged following the wreck of the Costa Concordia on Italy’s western Mediterrenean shore. Domnica Cemortan, a 25-year-old woman from Moldova who is said to have had a close relationship with disgraced Captain Francesco Schettino, was interviewed on television in her native country and claims that her friend did an “extraordinary” job during the rescue. It was approximately 10 pm on Friday, January 13 that the huge cruise ship, owned by Carnival Cruise lines, struck a reef adjacent to Giglio Island and opened a huge gash below the water line. The ship immediately began to take on water, but it was at least 30 minutes before Schettino sounded an alarm. Eleven people are now confirmed dead, while there are still some passengers missing. The Italian navy has given up hope of finding any more survivors on the Costa Concordia, now a hulk.

A recording of an exchange between Schettino and an Italian coastguard pilot DeFalco made clear the drama of the situation on the fateful evening. Schettino had taken refuge in a lifeboat when reached by radio. It appeared obvious that Schettino was not engaged in protecting the passengers or salvaging the ship during the radio exchange. His young companion was photographed with him in a lifeboat that night, and was seen drinking with him earlier.

According to authorities, Cemortan was not listed on the passenger roll. The pretty blonde stayed in a cabin adjacent to the ship’s command quarters.  In Moldova, Cemortan has been given heroic status and continues to defend Schettino’s actions. In her version of events, Schettino stopped to help several passengers and also joined other officers in command quarters before joining her in the lifeboat. “He saved us,” insists the soft-spoken Cemortan, “I believe that he did an extraordinary job, the whole crew thinks so; he saved more than 3000 people.” Cemortan also claims that she herself joined in the rescue efforts.

Cemortan was in command quarters when the ship scraped an obstacle on its way out to the Mediterrenean past the Giglio resort island. “I heard the noise of things falling, but the captain was still on the bridge,” she claimed. “These have been terrible moments. I thought about my two-year-old daughter. It was dark. People were shouting.” This testimony would appear to contradict the official version of events in which Schettino revealed that he was on dry land even while his ship was sinking, contrary to regulations and ancient maritime custom.

Cemortan denied reports that key members of the crew were drunk at the moment of the disaster. “It’s not true. Besides, when I got home there wasn’t anybody at the airport asking me whether I was okay or to congratulate me for the lives I saved.” 



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Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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