"Mystery blonde" Moldovan woman, Domnica Cemortan, whom authorities were seeking in connection with the Costa Concodia tragedy, has spoken out in defence of Captain Francesino Schettino, after the media dubbed him "Captain Coward".
Reports of what happened on the fateful night when cruise liner Costa Concordia ran aground have varied wildly. and while many reports have praised the crew for their handling of the crisis, a lot of criticism has been levelled at Schettino. The 52-year-old captain has been accused of "driving the ship like a Ferrari" and "showing off".
"And so what? You want to go home, Schettino? It is dark and you want to go home? Get on that prow of the boat using the pilot ladder and tell me what can be done, how many people there are and what their needs are. Now!"
However Schettino is said to have stayed in the lifeboat and hailed a taxi home. He later said he "tripped and fell" into a lifeboat. The Captain of Costa Concordia is now under house arrest, as authorities seek to determine the events that led up to the tragedy.
Domnica Cemortan was apparently seen dining with Schettino on the night of the tragedy and paints a different picture of what happened the night the Costa Concordia ran aground.
"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, 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 deck 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."
Cemortan describes Captain Francesco Schettino as a hero, saying: "He did a great thing. He saved over 3,000 lives."
The 25-year-old blonde, who used to work for Costa Cruises told Moldovan television that the passengers were "a herd of lost sheep...who didn't have a clue how to behave in such a situation."
Eleven people are known to have died after the ship ran aground off the Tuscan island of Giglio, with 21 still missing.
Captain Francesco Schettino, who made an unauthorised diversion from his programmed route, admits he made a "mistake" and faces possible charges of manslaughter causing a shipwreck and abandoning his ship.