Traces of cocaine have reportedly been found on the exterior of a hair sample from Costa Concordia captain Francesco Schettino.
Lawyers for survivors of the tragedy are pressing for new drug tests to be carried out on Schettino after the initial results were published this weekend.
Italian consumer protection group Codacons, which is representing some of the survivors, said traces of the drug were found on a hair sample and in an envelope containing the sample, but noted a urine sample and analysis of the hair did not yield evidence of cocaine.
It called the findings “very strange” and said it had requested new testing to see if the samples might have been contaminated, AP said.
Usual signs of cocaine use include the presence of the drug within the hair or urine. That traces were found on the captain’s hair indicate he may have been around the drug, although not used it himself.
Questions have been asked about the behaviour of Schettino, who was captaining the Costa Concordia when it crashed into rocks, killing 17 people.
Footage broadcast on Italy’s TG5 news revealed the captain on the bridge of the luxury liner, speaking on the telephone and seemingly oblivious to the confusion around him.
Crew members were heard pressurising the 52-year-old to officially evacuate the vessel as they begin to don life jackets in panic.
One officer was heard shouting “What do we do?” as Schettino calmly continued his conversation, the Independent reported.
Around three quarters of an hour before the official “abandon ship” orders are given, one official was heard to say “Passengers are getting into the life boats on their own”, to which a man believed to be Schettino replies “vabbuo”, which translates as “whatever”.
The captain refused to give the official orders to abandon ship for a further 15 minutes, a delay which experts say cost many their lives.
TG5 news has handed the footage over to Italian investigators.
Schettino was commanding the ship, carrying 4,200 people, of which 15 are still missing, when it ran aground off the Tuscan coast on 13 January.
He is being investigated for suspected manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning the vessel before all its passengers were evacuated.
Schettino has remained under house arrest since the incident and the ship remains partially submerged off the coast of Giglio.
The married father-of-one is also mired in a romantic controversy after he was reportedly spotted drinking and dining with a 25-year-old blonde dancer just before the shipwreck.
A fortnight ago, Cemortan reportedly told investigators she was “in love” with the 52-year-old. The 24-year-old had initially denied any romantic involvement with him, but reportedly admitted her feelings after divers found her lingerie in his cabin.
Other items of her clothing and a makeup bag were also found among his belongings, the Times said.
She told Italian newspaper La Stampa: “Yes, it’s true. I am in love with Captain Schettino.”
According to the Daily Express, Cemortan was questioned by Italian prosecutors investigating the disaster for more than five hours before she made her comments.
She reportedly told them: "I was on the bridge because I was in love with the captain. I found him charming and fascinating. I love him.
"I was on the bridge as his guest. It's not right that his image is being destroyed."
But in an interview with Oggi magazine published earlier this month, she denied the claims.
She said: "They are all lies. I wasn't born yesterday. The information was put out to put pressure on the captain. They want to isolate him, even from his family.
"I never said to magistrates 'I love Schettino'. They say they've found my bikini in his cabin. What have they found on this bikini that connects it to me? Was my name written on it, was there my photograph, or my DNA?"
Officials plan to remove about 500,000 gallons (2,400 tons) of heavy fuel from the Costa Concordia wreckage, but that has been delayed by rough seas and bad weather.
Once the fuel is withdrawn, the massive ship will be broken into pieces and taken away – a process that could take many months, AP reported.
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