DNA tests have identified remains found at the wreck of the Costa Concordia cruise ship as belonging to a female Italian passenger, Maria Grazia Trecarichi.

The body, in an advanced state of decay, was found on October 8, three weeks after the 114,000-ton liner was pulled upright in an unprecedented salvage operation.

The remains had been trapped near the third deck at the back of the ship, close to one of the restaurants, in an area where dishes were washed. They were first believed to be that of Indian waiter Russel Rebello.

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Investigators later changed their assumption as a pair of size 5 women’s shoes and a necklace were retrieved nearby.

Trecarichi’s family recognized the necklace as a gift the woman had received. On Jan. 13, 2012, the night of the tragedy, the woman was celebrating her 50th birthday with a friend, Luisa Virzì, who also died, and her 17-year-old daughter Stefania, who survived.

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The Concordia had 4,229 people from 70 countries on board when Capt. Francesco Schettino allegedly drove it on an unauthorized route too close to shore, ripping a huge gash in the hull.

As the ship tumbled onto its side, it claimed 32 lives. Among them was Indian waiter Russel Rebello, who is still missing, and Maria Grazia Trecarichi.

Trecarichi left her place in the lifeboat to her daughter and other elder people. She was cold, and went back to her cabin to fetch a jacket.

While she was waiting with her friend Virzì to board another lifeboat, she called a family friend and told him the ship was listing.

Before the communication was lost  at twelve minutes after midnight, the friend clearly perceived Maria Grazia and Luisa were slipping into the sea.

“My wife died 12 minutes after having reached the age of 50,” Trecarichi’s widower Elio Vincenzi told reporters.

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He added the funeral will be probably held at the end of next week in Trecarichi’s hometown of Leonforte, Sicily.

Between October 10 and 14, divers identified other bone remains in an area not far from where Trecarichi’s body was found.

Investigators hope they are Rebello’s remains, but have so far suspended the search since it is extremely dangerous to dive there.

According to reports in the Italian media, the search might resume once the Concordia is fully refloated and taken to port for dismantling.

Image: The Costa Concordia wreck. Credit: Rossella Lorenzi.