Ukrainian captain of Viking Sigyn is charged

Hungarian prosecutors have charged the Ukrainian captain of Swiss cruise ship Viking Sigyn which in May this year hit and sank smaller tourist boat Mermaid on the River Danube in the middle of Budapest during heavy weather.

He has been charged with misconduct leading to mass casualties and 35 counts of failing to provide help in a disaster which killed 27 people, 25 of them South Koreans.

The Mermaid sank within a minute of being hit by the river cruiser. Her captain and its crew member also died. It was the worst disaster on the Danube for more than 50 years.

Prosecutors claimed that the Mermaid overtook the cruise ship and had the right of way as it attempted to sail under the bridge. But the captain of the cruiser accelerated, even though the small boat was in clear view and also visible on the radar. “The captain failed to pay sufficient attention, he did not focus on steering the ship for several minutes,” the prosecutors said, adding that the captain failed to keep a safe distance and did not send the radio and sound signals needed when overtaking.

Police have identified the captain as 64-year-old C Yuriy from Odessa, Ukraine. His lawyers have previously said he was devastated but did nothing wrong.

The liner’s owner, Swiss-based Viking Cruises Ltd, has said it was cooperating with Hungarian investigators.

Prosecutors said on Thursday that the charges against the captain could lead to a prison sentence of between two and 11 years.