A ballerina seen dining with the captain of the doomed Costa Concordia was the first person to reach a lifeboat, it was claimed yesterday.
While most passengers and crew fled with nothing, dancer Domnica Cemortan was on a lifeboat with a packed bag 30 minutes before the cruise liner finally ran aground off the Italian coast.
Hope floats: Coast Guard divers conduct a search and rescue operation
that led to the discovery of the body of a woman inside Costa Concordia
Her quick escape has prompted claims she was given early warning the vessel was going down before the order was give to abandon ship.
The death toll rose to 12 yesterday when divers found the body of a woman, wearing a life-jacket, on the fourth deck of the ship.
Twenty people are still missing. Cemortan has denied being any more than a dining partner of Captain Francesco Schettino, who is facing homicide charges over the disaster.
She was employed by Costa Cruises for five years as a dancer and translator for Russian passengers and was reportedly seen enjoying dinner with Schettino. She was spotted on the bridge alongside the captain as the ship hit rocks near the island of Giglio, off the Tuscan coast.
Domnica Cemortan was seen having wine with the captain half an hour
before the Costa Concordia disaster.
pics/afp, getty images
Alexander Banescu, a fitness instructor on the Costa Concordia, said: "I heard she was on the bridge when it happened. I think she was on the first boat off. "The crew all left the ship with nothing. She was wearing warm clothes and had her bag packed. She had everything - documents, money. How could she have known?"
The dancer, who has since returned to her native Moldova, has denied she was romantically involved with the captain.
She said, "I am not the captain's lover. You know why? He was always showing me photos of his daughter when she was little. "A man who wants a lover does not behave like that."
Meanwhile, the captain, under house arrest and facing charges of manslaughter and abandoning ship, has admitted that he "messed up."
What rescuers found on ship
Divers also recuperated the captain's strongbox and personal belongings, as well as the video cameras of command quarters, which may reveal further details on the tragedy in ongoing investigations.