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Woman with ship captain defends his actions

January 19, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
A young woman is defending the actions of a cruise ship captain who is accused of causing a wreck and abandoning ship.

Dominica Cermotan, a 25-year-old Moldovan hostess, said she was with the Capt. Francesco Schettino after the Costa Concordia rammed into a Tuscan reef on Friday, forcing the evacuation of 4,200 people on board.

Cermotan said on her Facebook page that she wasn't on duty the night of the grounding but was with Schettino, other officers and the cruise director on the bridge.

She said she was called to help with translations of instructions for how the small number of Russian passengers should evacuate.

"We were looking for them, searching for them (the Russians)," she said in an interview with Moldova's Jurnal TV. "We heard them all crying, shouting in all languages."

She defended Schettino, saying he stayed on deck until 11:50 p.m. The ship hit the reef at 9:45 p.m.

"He did a great thing, he saved over 3,000 lives," she said.

Cermotan's story comes on the same day the company that owns the wrecked vessel, Costa Crociere SpA, suspended Schettino.

Schettino remains under house arrest and faces possible charges of manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning his ship. Costa Crociere SpA says he made an unauthorized deviation from the ship's programmed course that brought him too close to the reefs off the tiny island of Giglio.

Eleven people have died, and 21 others are still missing.

Search efforts were temporarily suspended due to bad weather, but divers resumed searching on Thursday.

A new audio tape emerged on Thursday of the first contact between Italian port officials and the cruise ship. When port officials asked what was wrong, a Concordia officer insisted that the ship had only experienced a blackout - comments that came about 40 minutes after the ship rammed violently into the reef.

See photos of the Costa Concordia cruise ship wreck.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.