Danube boat crash: Ukrainian captain on trial for deadly collision

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By Euronews  with AP, AFP
Danube boat crash: Ukrainian captain on trial for deadly collision
Copyright  Balazs Mohai/MTVA - Media Service Support and Asset Management Fund

The captain of a boat involved in a deadly collision on the River Danube has gone on trial in Hungary.

A Ukrainian man, named in court as Yuriy Chaplinsky, is charged with "endangerment" under the river code "resulting in numerous deaths".

Just seven of the 33 South Korean tourists on board the smaller tour boat survived the collision, while two Hungarian crew members also died. 

The bodies of 27 victims were later found during weeks of searching. One person remains missing.

Chaplinsky also faces 35 other charges, including failure to assist a person in danger. He denied responsibility for the collision.

CCTV footage from the 29 May 2019 shows the 135-metre-long cruise boat colliding with a smaller 26-metre vessel boat near the Margit Bridge in the centre of Budapest.

The Mermaid tour boat is believed to have sunk in less than 60 seconds.

Prosecutors say the captain of the Viking Sigyn had been distracted for at least five minutes before the crash.

He is accused of negligently ignoring how dangerously close the two vessels were and failing to slow down and change course in time.

The vessel was raised out of the Danube by a huge floating crane on June 11, with the assistance of divers from South Korea.

Some of the victims' bodies were found weeks after the crash more than 100 kilometres away from Budapest.

This collision is the most serious shipping accident to occur in Hungary in recent decades.

Chaplinsky's trial is scheduled to continue on April 30.

The families of the Korean victims are not attending the trial because of the COVID-19 epidemic.

In a separate case, prosecutors are also investigating the captain of a sister cruise boat, which arrived at the scene shortly after the crash.

The captain, who has not been identified, is suspected of failing to stop and provide assistance to anyone in the water who may have been in need of rescue.