Captain of vessel in Danube boat collision had previous accident

The Ukrainian captain is reportedly feeling remorse over last week’s Danube river boat casualties. (AFP pic)

BUDAPEST: The Ukrainian captain of a cruise liner involved in a fatal collision with a pleasure boat on the Danube River in Budapest last week had captained a boat in the Netherlands that was in an accident there in April, Hungarian prosecutors said today.

The prosecutors also said in a statement that their investigations showed the captain of the Viking Sigyn had “deleted data from his phone” after the collision on May 29, which killed 28 people, most of them South Korean tourists.

They said at this point it was unclear whether the data was related to the accident.

The Mermaid, carrying South Koreans on a pleasure cruise, capsized and sank after being struck by the larger Viking Sigyn.

The Viking’s captain, a 64-year-old Ukrainian man identified by police as C. Yuriy from Odessa, was arrested last week in Budapest and is being held as a suspect in the case.

His lawyers have said he is devastated by what happened but did nothing wrong. His lawyers could not be reached for comment.

The Hungarian prosecutors said they had obtained through Eurojust, an EU agency that helps cooperation in judicial matters in the bloc, official information that the captain was also captain of a boat that was in an accident in the Netherlands on April 1.

Media reports said that in the incident referred to, the Viking Idun river ship collided with a cargo vessel while sailing from Antwerp to Ghent.

According to a Viking statement cited in media nobody on the Idun was injured.

Swiss-based Viking Cruises, which owns the Viking Sigyn, said last week it was cooperating with investigators and could not comment while a criminal case was under way.

The operator of The Mermaid has not responded to requests for comment on the accident in Budapest, the worst one on the River Danube in more than half a century. The cause has not yet been established and police are investigating.

Seven Koreans were rescued alive. Seventeen bodies have been recovered and 11 people are officially listed as missing and presumed dead, including a Korean child and two Hungarian crew.

Bodied identified

South Korea’s practice of fingerprinting all adult citizens has helped forensic experts identify all of the bodies recovered so far, officials said.

Police lieutenant-colonel Zsuzsanna Kreitz said that in such accidents, corpses are damaged and identification through photographs and ID cards becomes impossible. “We use fingerprints, DNA and dental records instead,” she said.

South Korean Interpol Chief Superintendent Im Byung-ho, leading the Disaster Victim Identification (DVI) unit at the scene, said every body recovered so far has been identified at the Budapest Medical University using fingerprints.

The only passenger who will need to be identified via DNA is a six year-old child, whose fingerprint is not yet in the database, he said. The child’s body has not yet been recovered.

The Budapest disaster occurred in heavy rain. In the week since, flooding on the river has receded, allowing divers to reach the wreck and recover some of the bodies. Corpses have also begun to surface at the wreck site and further downstream.

News website Atlatszo.hu said police have interviewed close to 300 witnesses and analysed 40 CCTV recordings.

Police spokesman Kristof Gal said that was a plausible ballpark figure, without confirming the precise numbers.