(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
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
"But he did not immediately speak the phrase 'I'm taking
control', which signals a change in command," continued
"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
(photo: Captain Francesco Schettino)