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All Eyes On Moldovan 'Siren' Who Captivated Captain Of 'Italian Titanic'

  • RFE/RL

A video grab of Domnica Cemortan being interviewed by Moldovan television

A video grab of Domnica Cemortan being interviewed by Moldovan television

For Domnica Cemortan, it was a night to remember. Unfortunately, it was for all the wrong reasons.

The 25-year-old Moldovan woman has emerged as a person of interest in the spectacular sinking of the "Costa Concordia" cruise ship, after it was revealed she enjoyed a cozy evening with the vessel's captain shortly before it ran aground off the coast of Italy.

Passengers on the doomed luxury liner say they saw Cemortan dining on prawns and drinking red wine with the ship's 52-year-old captain, Francesco Schettino, in the hours before the ship hit an exposed rock near the Tuscan island of Giglio off Italy's western coast on January 13.

Schettino has since become an object of ridicule and outrage for allegedly escaping to a lifeboat and leaving many of the 4,200 passengers and crew to fend for themselves.

But Cemortan, who has given a flurry of interviews since her return to Moldova, has defended her dining companion's response as the ship tilted sharply to one side and began to sink.
I've heard in Russian media that the captain left the ship first, or among the first. But this is not true!

Speaking to Moldova's Jurnal TV, she credited Schettino with saving thousands of lives and said he remained on board at a time when many media reported him as already having landed on shore after escaping in a lifeboat.

"I've heard in Russian media that the captain left the ship first, or among the first. But this is not true! I'm a witness," she says. "I don't know if I'm invited to testify in the court or not, but as a witness I can say that I left the bridge at 23:50 following an order from the captain who told me to go to the third deck to get into a lifeboat that could take more people."

At least 11 people were killed in the incident and dozens are still missing. Schettino -- now under house arrest -- faces possible charges of manslaughter, causing a shipwreck, and abandoning ship.

WATCH: Domnica Cemortan recalls the night of January 13 when the "Costa Concordia" ran aground off an Italian island:

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The emergence of Cemortan -- a trained ballerina who spent five years employed as a hostess on the "Costa Concordia" but was reportedly traveling as a vacationing passenger at the time of the accident -- has raised still more doubts about Schettino's fitness as the captain of a $580 million ship carrying thousands of passengers.

The company in charge of the "Costa Concordia" has dismissed claims that Schettino was drinking wine in the hours before the accident, saying all ship officers are subject to random drug and alcohol tests.

Cruise authorities have also sought to explain why Cemortan was allowed on the bridge of the ship during the crisis if she was allegedly on board as a vacationer rather than an employee. Cemortan herself says she was brought to the bridge to assist in announcing rescue instructions in a number of different languages, including Russian.

Italian police are looking to speak to Cemortan for more details about Schettino's actions while still on board the "Costa Concordia."

In the meantime, Cemortan is enjoying an odd celebrity in a story that one Romanian daily has dubbed "The Moldovan Siren and the Italian Titanic."

Written by Daisy Sindelar, based on reporting by RFE/RL's Moldovan Service

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