• Costa Concordia captain 'distracted' moments before crash

Costa Concordia captain 'distracted' moments before crash

'One the phone, had a woman with him'

(see related) (ANSA) - Grosseto, December 17 - The first officer aboard the Costa Concordia cruise liner told a court Tuesday that Captain Francesco Shettino was "distracted" by a telephone call and a woman in the moments leading up to the crash that killed 32 people off the coast of Tuscany early last year. "The captain was distracted. He was on the telephone with (retired Costa captain Mario) Palombo. Even though I had finished my shift, I felt I had to retake command in order to give orders to the helmsman to start our approach to Giglio Island, which was getting closer," said Ciro Ambrosio. In testimony this October, Palombo said he was telling Schettino in that phone call there was no reason to sail so close to Giglio, and advised him to distance the ship from the shore. The first officer said Schettino then "arrived in the command center accompanied by a woman, then gave an order to switch to manual control of the helm". The woman has been identified as Domnica Cemortan, a Moldovan dancer who said she was having an affair with Schettino. "But he did not immediately speak the phrase 'I'm taking control', which signals a change in command," continued Ambrosio. "However, given the way he positioned himself, I assumed he had taken command and I thought I was no longer in charge. "Then, since the captain was distracted, and we were getting closer to Giglio, I gave orders to the helmsman. "Only afterward did the captain finally say the words 'I'm taking control', at the time of 21:39:17". The crash took place shortly later at 21:45 local time. Ambrosio then added that Schettino ordered to "turn 290 degrees when we were 1.6 miles from the island and increase speed". (photo: Captain Francesco Schettino)