Francesco Schettino, captain of the Costa Concordia cruise ship that ran aground off the coast of Italy last week, is not a well-liked man. According to Reuters, Italian newspapers "have branded Schettino a coward for fleeing in the face of adversity."
But Domnica Cemortan, a 25-year-old dancer whom the Telegraph reports used to work on the Costa Concordia, says she was with the captain as he ordered people to get into lifeboats.
In an interview available above, posted by the Telegraph, Cemortan says that, despite earlier media reports, the captain was not one of the first people to leave the ship.
"I've heard through Russian media that the captain was the first or one of the first to leave, but that's not true," she said in the interview. "As a witness, I can say that I left the deck at [11:50 p.m.] following an order from the captain himself who told me to go to the third deck and get into a lifeboat that could take more people."
Cemortan also spoke on the issue with reporters in Bucharest, according to the New York Daily News.
"He saved us," Cemortan told reporters. "I believe that he did an extraordinary job -- the whole crew thinks so. He saved more than 3,000 people."
The Guardian reported on Thursday that passengers said they saw Schettino and Cemortan eating and drinking together before the disaster, something she said wasn't true.
According to the Associated Press, Cemortan, who is Moldovan and speaks several languages, said she was called to the ship's bridge to help translate instructions
"All our colleagues made announcements in different languages because there was a problem with the electricity. It was very dark on the ship," she told Adevarul, a daily newspaper in Moldova, according to the AP. "I stayed on the bridge in case the captain needed me to make an announcement."
But Cemortan is one of the few to publicly defend the captain who is currently under house arrest and, may be charged with abandoning ship, shipwreck and manslaughter.
The search for 21 passengers who are still missing resumed on Thursday, according to the AP. So far, there have been 11 confirmed fatalities.