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Wednesday 16 October 2019

Cruise ship captain also involved in Netherlands crash – Hungarian authorities

The number of South Korean tourists killed in the incident on the Danube River on May 29 has risen to 17.

A power shovel fixed on a pontoon at work at the scene of the collision on the River Danube (Zoltan Balogh/MTI via AP)
A power shovel fixed on a pontoon at work at the scene of the collision on the River Danube (Zoltan Balogh/MTI via AP)

By Pablo Gorondi, Associated Press

The Ukrainian captain of the cruise ship involved in the deadly collision with a sightseeing boat on the Danube River was also involved in a crash in the Netherlands earlier in the year, Budapest’s Chief Prosecution Office has said.

The news came as Hungarian authorities revealed that the number of South Korean tourists killed in the incident had risen to 17.

Rescue and recovery efforts continue for nine other South Koreans and the two-man Hungarian crew aboard the Hableany (Mermaid) that sunk within seconds of being hit by the 95-cabin river cruise ship.

Only seven people, all from the 33-member tourist group, are known to have survived the May 29 incident.

A power shovel fixed on a pontoon at work at the scene (Zoltan Balogh/MTI via AP)

Hungarian police announced on Thursday the recovery of the bodies of two South Korean men.

One was found about two miles from the Margit Bridge, the scene of the collision near the Hungarian Parliament building in the capital Budapest, while the other was located around 3.5 miles downstream.

The 64-year-old captain of the Viking Sigyn cruise ship was formally arrested for 30 days in Budapest on Saturday, suspected of endangering water transport leading to a deadly mass accident.

He remained in custody while an appeal court rules on prosecutors’ objections to his release on bail.

A floating crane able to lift 200 tons is on its way to the site of the accident(Laszlo Balogh/AP)

Prosecutors also said the captain, identified earlier as Yuriy C, referencing his first name and the initial letter of his last name, erased data from his mobile phone after the Budapest collision, though they could not confirm that the missing information was related to their investigation.

The Viking’s owners did not reply to a request for comment.

Citing their ongoing probe, the Dutch Safety Board would not confirm if the captain of the Viking Idun, the Sigyn’s sister ship, which collided with a tanker, the Chemical Marketer, on April 1 on the Western Scheldt waterway near the southern Dutch town of Terneuzen, was also the man being held as a suspect in Hungary.

According to the safety board’s website, the accident happened shortly after midnight on April 1. The cruise ship was carrying 137 passengers and 43 crew members when it collided with a Maltese chemical tanker. The site said “a number of passengers were slightly injured and the damage to both ships was considerable”.

A huge floating crane to be used to raise the Hableany from the Danube floor, the Adam Clark, has been waiting since Wednesday afternoon in north Budapest.

Nandor Jasenszky, a spokesman for the rescue team, said divers were setting up harnesses and lifting points on the sunken tour boat, with preparations expected to be concluded by Friday.

The crane will only be able to begin the lift when Danube water levels fall.

After falling significantly in the first days of the week, the Danube has risen several inches over the past 24 hours and is expected to rise a bit more until around midday on Friday — due to melting snow in its upper basin — before falling again.

The identification of the South Korean victims was being conducted with the cooperation of South Korean police.

Its chief superintendent, Im Byung-ho, said new techniques had made it possible to lift fingerprints from bodies that had been in the water for up to three months.

PA Media

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