Francesco Schettino, captain of the ill-fated Costa Concordia, may be the least popular man in Europe. However, he does have at least one fan. Domnica Cemortan (sometimes spelled "Dominica Cermotan") of Moldova is doing her best to defend Schettino's honor.
The 25-year-old gave an interview with Moldova's Jurnal TV. She claims Schettino "did a great thing, he saved over 3,000 lives" and that he stayed on deck until 11:50 p.m., an assertion that contradicts other reports. The ship sank on Jan. 14. Eleven people have been confirmed dead; 21 more are missing.
Cemortan has worked on cruise ships, but she claims, according to ABC News, to have been onboard the Costa Concordia as a passenger. The trip, she has said, was a birthday present.
Over the past several days, web interest in Cemortan has skyrocketed. Information about the Moldovan is scant; several photos, however, apparently from her Facebook account, have surfaced.
According to the U.K.'s Telegraph, Cemortan said in an interview that she feels Schettino is being unfairly criticized: "Look at how many people are alive because of him. It's a tragedy that people are missing, but he saved over 3,000 people on that ship because of his actions."
According to the AP, Cemortan posted 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 up from dinner to help with translations of instructions for how the small number of Russian passengers should evacuate."
Authorities are eager to speak with her, as it has been widely reported that she was with Schettino during the disaster. Cemortan denies she is the captain's girlfriend. She's also said that reports the captain was drinking in the ship's bar are false.
The captain has claimed that he fell into the life boat when the ship tilted the side, an assertion that has been widely mocked. A recently released audiotape of an Italian Coast Guard official yelling at the captain to get back on board has inspired t-shirts and Facebook pages.