REPORTING FROM ROME--The young woman's cosmetics and clothes, including her underwear, were reportedly found by scuba divers in the cruise ship cabin of the man she says she loves, Francesco Schettino, captain of the doomed Costa Concordia.
She defended the married Schettino while being questioned by prosecutors, calling him a hero for steering the damaged ship close to a small Tuscan island Jan. 13 before it began to list heavily, according to news reports Thursday. And she told them “it’s not right” that his reputation has been “destroyed” by accusations.
"I love him," Domnica Cemortan told prosecutors investigating the ship's grounding, according to news reports.
Cemortan, who was interviewed for hours Wednesday by authorities investigating the tragedy -- 17 people are confirmed dead and 15 are listed as missing -- said she was on the command bridge the night the cruise ship ran aground, according to news reports. She is a former employee of Costa Crociere, the cruise company that owns the ship.
Schettino, who is under house arrest in his hometown near Naples, has reportedly told investigators that only authorized personnel were on the command bridge the night the ship hit rocks and began to take on water. He is charged with manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning ship.
Investigators are trying to ascertain why Schettino waited more than an hour to call for evacuation of the more than 4,200 passengers and crew, a crucial time period in the ensuing chaotic rescue operations. He has been denounced as a coward and a liar by many fellow Italians.
The search for victims was officially called off Wednesday as worsening weather and the shifting of the 950-foot-long vessel on its rocky perch made conditions too dangerous for divers and other rescuers.
Bad weather also delayed operations to pump out the approximately 500,000 gallons of fuel stored in several cisterns. The process is expected to take about a month.
Once that is completed, authorities must determine how best to remove the vessel from the port of the tiny island of Giglio, known for its pristine waters and beautiful natural surroundings.
-- Sarah Delaney
Photo: Domnica Cemortan poses during an interview Jan. 16 with Adevarul Chisinau newspaper in Chisinau, Moldova. Credit: Eduard Bizgu / AFP/Getty Images