Hungary: Five years in prison for captain after Danube ship accident

As of: September 26, 2023 12:01 p.m

It was the worst shipping accident in Hungary’s post-war history: a cruise ship collided with a smaller boat in Budapest – 27 people died. Now the captain has been convicted.

More than four years after a ship accident on the Danube in Budapest that killed 27 people, the captain of a cruise ship involved was sentenced to five years in prison. A court in the Hungarian capital found the 68-year-old Ukrainian guilty of endangering shipping traffic resulting in death.

He was acquitted of the charge of failing to provide assistance. The verdict can be appealed.

Excursion boat rammed while overtaking

The 2,000-ton ship “Viking Sigyn” piloted by the Ukrainian rammed a smaller excursion boat while overtaking on May 29, 2019. Surveillance camera footage showed how the “Viking Sigyn” quickly approached the “Mermaid” on a section of the Danube in the city center that is popular with tourists and then collided with it while overtaking. The boat sank within a few seconds.

There were 33 South Korean tourists and two Hungarian crew members on board the “Mermaid”. 25 South Koreans and both crew members were killed. Only seven inmates were rescued, and one South Korean woman is still missing today.

It was the worst shipping accident in Hungary’s post-war history.

The sunken excursion ship “Mermaid” was recovered from the Danube in June 2019.

“I have to live with this for the rest of my life.”

Before the verdict was announced, the captain, who has been in custody since 2019, expressed his “great regret” about the accident. “I can’t relax for a minute because of the memories of this terrible tragedy. I can’t sleep at night because of it,” he said in the courtroom. “And I think I’ll have to live with that for the rest of my life.”

The prosecution had accused the captain of not concentrating on his duties for at least five minutes before the accident and therefore not realizing how close he was to the other ship. After the collision, he failed to fulfill his duty to help the drowning people.

In the trial, which began in March 2020, the captain rejected the allegations. He said in a written statement that he did not notice the smaller boat and suspected a collision with driftwood. When he realized what had happened, he was shocked and left his second officer in charge.

His lawyer had called for the captain to be acquitted of all charges. He blamed the Mermaid’s captain alone for the tragedy.

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