ROME — A young Moldovan woman who says she was called to the bridge of the stricken Costa Concordia to help evacuate Russian passengers defended the embattled captain Thursday, saying he worked tirelessly and "saved over 3,000 lives."
Domnica Cemortan, who says she was translating Capt. Francesco Schettino's orders during the frenzied evacuation, has emerged as a potential new witness in the investigation into the officer's actions the night the ship ran aground.
Cemortan said Schettino stayed on deck at least until 11:50 p.m., when he ordered her into a lifeboat.
Schettino is under house arrest, facing possible charges of manslaughter, abandoning ship and causing a shipwreck after he made an unauthorized detour from the programmed route that caused the vessel to slam into a reef and capsize Jan. 13 off the island of Giglio. At least 11 people were killed and 21 are missing.
Carnival Corp., the parent company of Costa Cruises, announced Thursday a comprehensive audit and review of all safety and emergency procedures across all 10 of its cruise lines.
A new audiotape of the doomed vessel's first communications with maritime authorities showed the ship's officers continued to report only an electrical problem for more than 30 minutes after hitting the reef.
Passengers and crew members have faulted Schettino and other senior officers for failing to act quickly, delaying evacuation until the ship was listing too severely to lower many of the lifeboats.
Divers Thursday were focusing on an evacuation route on the ship's fourth level, now about 60 feet below the surface, where five bodies were found earlier this week, Navy spokesman Alessandro Busonero told Sky TG 24.