(CNN) — Human remains have been found on the wrecked Costa Concordia, possibly answering what happened to the last two missing passengers of the cruise liner that struck rocks off Italy’s Giglio Island in 2012, a spokesman for the head of Italy’s civil protection agency said Thursday.
Divers will try to recover the remains, which were found on deck 4, on Thursday afternoon, the spokesman said.
The discovery comes a week after engineers finally righted the ship, which capsized when it hit rocks in the Tyrrhenian Sea in January 2012, killing 32 of the 4,200 people on board.
The toll of 32 includes two people who were missing but presumed dead: Russel Rebello of India and Maria Grazia Trecarichi of Sicily. Their bodies were long believed to be either trapped beneath or inside the ship.
Rebello, 33, was a cruise waiter who was last seen helping passengers off the ship. Trecarichi was on the cruise to celebrate her 50th birthday with her 17-year-old daughter, who survived.
Authorities say the ship struck the rocks off Giglio Island after the captain, Francesco Schettino, ordered the liner to veer more than four miles off course to salute a former sea captain who had retired on Giglio.
Schettino faces charges of manslaughter, causing a maritime disaster and abandoning ship with passengers still on board. His trial, which began with preliminary hearings in March, resumed Monday in Grosseto.
Schettino argues that he is a hero who saved the lives of more than 4,000 people, not a villain whose negligence led to the deaths of 32. His defense is trying to prove, among other things, that the ship’s watertight doors did not function properly, and that is the reason the ship sank, leading to all 32 deaths during evacuation.
Engineers rotated the ship back to vertical last week after it rested 20 months on its side. The unprecedented maneuver, called parbuckling, exposed a twisted mass of metal dotted with mattresses, passenger luggage and deck chairs on the ship’s previously submerged starboard side.
With the Costa Concordia now upright, judges on Wednesday agreed to Schettino’s request for a new examination of the ship. He also wants to walk the judges through the command bridge in a re-creation of the night of the crash.
Schettino also has told the court that the ship would not have crashed had his helmsman executed his instructions.
According to recordings from the ship’s bridge from the vessel’s black box, Schettino directed the helmsman to turn “hard to starboard” in English, but the helmsman can be heard asking “hard to port?” The helmsman then turned the ship right instead of left just 13 seconds before it hit the rocks.
A maritime expert has testified that those 13 seconds made no difference, saying it takes longer than that to change a ship’s course. But Schettino told the court that if the helmsman “had not turned the wheel the wrong way, we would have avoided hitting the rocks.”
The trial is expected to last through the fall with a string of witnesses, including passengers, crew members and islanders, who say they saw the captain on shore looking for dry socks before all the passengers had been safely evacuated.
The helmsman, Jacob Rusli Bin, and four others were convicted in a plea deal in July for their role in the disaster. A Florence court is considering the validity of those plea bargain agreements.
By Barbie Latza Nadeau and Jason Hanna, CNN