ROME — A Moldovan woman acknowledged in court Tuesday that she was the lover of the Italian captain who crashed the Costa Concordia cruise liner last year, in an accident that killed 32 people.
In the aftermath of the Jan. 13, 2012, shipwreck, questions were asked about the presence on board of 26-year-old Domnica Cemortan, who was not officially registered among the passengers, but whose belongings were found in the cabin of the Concordia's captain.
"Yes, I had an affair with (Capt.) Francesco Schettino. But we did not see each other again after the shipwreck," Cemortan told judges in Grosseto, where Schettino is being tried for manslaughter and other serious crimes.
Asked why she was not officially registered, she replied: "When you are someone's lover, they don't ask you for a ticket."
Cemontan's testimony -- which contradicted what she told Italian media days after the accident — is likely to reinforce perceptions that Schettino's conduct during the fatal cruise was less than professional.
The woman, who testified with an interpreter, initially refused to talk about her affair with the 52-year-old defendant. Schettino, who was in court, was seen shaking his head and gesturing while she was being questioned.
On the night of the disaster, Cemortan said she was dining with the captain and was later invited to the bridge. Standing by the door, she witnessed the moments before the Concordia hit a reef near the island of Giglio.
"I did not see anything because it was dark, then there was silence and he started to give orders in nautical terms, and I heard from an officer that one of the captain's orders had been mishandled. The captain grumbled and repeated the order. After a few minutes, it happened," she said.
"I did not feel the impact, the collision, but I saw the warning lights," she added.
Earlier, head waiter Antonello Tievoli told the court that he had asked Schettino, as a favor, to steer the Concordia closer to Giglio, so that he could say hello to his family living on the island.
The cruise liner took a detour near Giglio during another cruise, on Jan. 6, but the captain deemed it not close enough and ordered another passage on Jan. 13, Tievoli said. "To me it already seemed a lot compared to the norm, and I thanked him," he added.