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Police hold two crew over alcohol limit after Baltic Sea collision

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By Reuters
Police investigate marine intoxication after Baltic Sea collision
Police investigate marine intoxication after Baltic Sea collision   -   Copyright  Thomson Reuters 2021

By Johan Ahlander and Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen

COPENHAGEN/STOCKHOLM – Two crew members on a British cargo vessel were found to be over the legal limit for alcohol after a collision with a Danish barge in the Baltic Sea that killed at least one person, a Swedish prosecutor and the owner of the British ship said.

The 55-metre Karin Hoj barge capsized when it crashed with the 90-metre Scot Carrier off the island of Bornholm in fog and darkness early on Monday.

One of the two Danish crew members from the capsized barge was found dead in the hull. The other crew member was still missing and rescue efforts were abandoned after ships and helicopters scoured the waters to no avail on Monday.

The Swedish Prosecution Authority is investigating several suspected crimes – negligence in maritime traffic, causing death through negligence, and marine intoxication.

Two of the Scot Carrier’s crew, a Briton and a Croatian, remained in custody on Tuesday as part of the preliminary investigation. The prosecutor has until Thursday to decide whether to hold the suspects longer.

“The suspects that are in custody have both tested positive for alcohol,” Public Prosecutor Tomas Olvmyr told Reuters. “One person is suspected of gross marine intoxication based on actions in connection with the accident.”

The lawyer representing the Croatian suspect had not yet spoken to his client, with interviews scheduled for Tuesday afternoon.

The Briton in custody was suspected on multiple counts, including causing death through negligence, and had been on watch at the time of the collision, after which the smaller Danish ship capsized.

The Briton’s lawyer could not immediately be reached for comment.

“As things look at present, the two ships have moved in parallel and then one of the ships has swerved and run into the other one,” Olvmyr said.

Scotline, which owns the Scot Carrier, said in a statement it has a strict drug and alcohol policy in place and zero tolerance of any breaches.

The overturned Karin Hoj was towed into shallow water on Monday to allow divers to gain access without the risk of being pulled down if it sinks. The Swedish Coastguard plans to move it again to a place where it can be turned upright.

“It’s not likely the second (missing) person is there,” Swedish Coastguard spokesperson Valdemar Lindekrantz said. “But we can’t be absolutely sure until we’ve righted the ship and examined every single space.”