Hungary boat crash captain arrested

The captain of one of the boats involved in the crash that caused the death of of dozens of people in Hungary has been arrested. 21 people are still missing.

The sinking of a tourist boat carrying South Korean tourists in Budapest, Hungary, left at least 7 dead and 21 missing on the night of May 29-30. Hungarian police announced the opening of a criminal investigation and released images of the collision of a passenger boat with another cruise ship.

The search could last several days and help is hardly available. The “Mermaid”, a 26 meter long boat that sailed with 35 people on board, capsized and sunk in seconds in the night of May 29-30, in the heart of the Hungarian capital after a collision with a cruise ship 135 meters in length, the “Sigyn”.

The accident occurred around 22h local, between the Chain Bridge, the most famous of the capital, and the Marguerite Bridge that connect the old city of Buda and the district of Pest. It is a popular area for river excursions whose main attraction is the monumental Hungarian Parliament.

According to the Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 33 nationals of the country were on board. If seven people were saved, 21 are still missing.

The wreckage of the boat was located after several hours of search, near the Margaret Bridge, according to the Hungarian public television. Hungarian Foreign Minister Szijjarto warned that the salvage of the wreck would be part of a “long mission”. This Friday, May 31, Hungarian rescuers are still working to try to find missing persons.

An open criminal investigation, the captain of the cruise ship arrested

At a press conference on Thursday morning, Hungarian police showed CCTV footage of the “Mermaid” with South Korean nationals on board, colliding with Norway’s Viking Sigyn cruise ship. “The record shows that before the collision, the Mermaid turned towards the Viking’s Sigyn Cruise Ship, for some unknown reason, and the the Viking then also bumped towards the small ship, which sank in seven seconds,” said Colonel Adrian Pal. The boat was also carrying two Hungarian crew members.

A criminal investigation was opened. Thursday evening, the commander of the cruise ship was arrested by the Hungarian police. “The Ukrainian commander of the cruise ship was questioned as a suspect by the investigators,” the police said in a statement. “After his interrogation, Youri C., 64, a resident Odessa, was detained”.

Due to heavy rainfall on Wednesday May 29 and since the beginning of May, a strong current has been shaking the Danube, and greatly complicates the task of rescue. It makes diving operations “extremely dangerous,” the Hungarian foreign minister said. “The visibility (underwater) is zero and the water continues to rise,” he added, recalling that the day before the divers had failed to reach the wreckage. Rescuers believe that most, if not all, of the missing bodies are inside the wreckage, with almost all of the passengers inside the ship during rainy weather.

Fifteen ships are mobilized to search for the missing. According to a high ranking firefighter, Gabor Szolt Patakai, searches extend south of Budapest along the length of the Danube to the border with Serbia whose authorities have been contacted. The search concentrated in Budapest and continued throughout the night.

“The elements play against us”

South Korean President Moon Jae-in called for “all available resources to be deployed” to help his compatriots. “We are not giving up hope of finding survivors,” South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha told a news conference on Friday.

Ildiko Horvath, Hungarian Secretary of State for Health, went to the scene and expressed his “condolences” to the families of the victims. Staff from the Korean embassy were also present to assist relief workers in their work. Army divers have joined the police for searches in the rain-swollen river after weeks of rain.

Andrei Santov

Andrei, a sociologist by profession, born in Russia but currently located in UK, covers mostly European and Russia-related news for The Talking Democrat.