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8 bodies found on doomed Italian ship; 7 employees investigated

From Hada Messia, CNN
February 22, 2012 -- Updated 1932 GMT (0332 HKT)
Twenty-five people are confirmed dead and seven are still missing after the Costa Concordia disaster.
Twenty-five people are confirmed dead and seven are still missing after the Costa Concordia disaster.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Eight more bodies are found aboard the Costa Concordia
  • NEW: Seven cruise line employees are under investigation, a prosecutor says
  • NEW: The discoveries bring the number of confirmed dead to 25
  • The cruise ship struck rocks and partially sank last month

Rome (CNN) -- Eight more bodies were found Wednesday aboard the shipwrecked Costa Concordia, Italian officials said Wednesday, and seven cruise line employees were being investigated.

The bodies were all found on a part of the ship known as bridge four, which is under water, Italian civil protection officials said. The discoveries raise the number of confirmed dead to 25, with seven people still missing.

The cruise liner struck rocks and turned on its side January 13 off the Italian island of Giglio.

Four of the bodies were recovered Wednesday, including those of a woman, man and little girl, civil protection officials said. They have not been identified.

Five-year-old Italian girl Dayana Arlotti is among those unaccounted for after the wreck.

Because of deteriorating weather conditions, rescuers from the Italian fire brigade halted recovery operations for Wednesday, officials said.

Meanwhile, seven more people -- four Concordia officers and three Costa employees -- are under investigation, prosecutor Francesco Verusio said. They include Roberto Ferrarini, head of the cruise lines' crisis unit. Ferrarini was on the phone with the ship's captain, Francesco Schettino, the night of the incident.

The seven have not been charged, detained or arrested, Verusio said. They are suspected of committing multiple manslaughter, shipwreck and failing to alert maritime authorities.

"The establishment of the truth is essential in order for justice to be done in the first instance for the victims but also with regards to our crew and indeed the entire company," Costa said in a statement. "We have complete faith in the judicial system and we have offered our fullest collaboration to the authorities from the very beginning.

"We have no doubt that (the) professionalism of our company, as well as the ability of our onboard and ashore people to cope with this extraordinary emergency, will be recognized."

Schettino remains under house arrest while investigators examine possible charges against him. Earlier this month, a Florence, Italy, court rejected a prosecution motion that Schettino be jailed as well as a defense motion that he be freed, according to attorney Alessandro Antichi.

The captain faces possible charges of manslaughter, shipwreck and abandoning ship in connection with the wreck.

Schettino has said managers of the cruise line instructed him to sail close to the island and has denied allegations that he was sailing too fast. He has said the rock the ship struck was not indicated on his charts of the area.

"We believe the placing other Costa personnel under investigation is simply due to the necessity for the authorities to provide such individuals with the guarantees afforded to everybody under Italian law, especially in view of the special evidentiary hearing that will commence in the coming days," Costa said.

The company said it "would like to express its complete trust and solidarity in these individuals, being absolutely confident in their professional competence and ethical correctness, who performed their duties with the highest professionalism and dedication in the hours following this grave incident."

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