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Captain of vessel that rammed smaller pleasure boat on Danube charged in Budapest court

AFP-JIJI, Reuters

The captain of a river cruise ship that collided with a smaller sightseeing vessel was charged Saturday over the accident in Budapest that killed seven South Korean tourists and left 21 people missing.

A Budapest court official said the Ukrainian captain of the Viking Sigyn had been charged, but gave no further details. The captain’s lawyer, Balazs Toth, said the court had denied bail.

The 64-year-old was detained Thursday for questioning a day after his vessel collided with the smaller boat, the Mermaid, which was carrying mainly South Korean tourists, causing it to overturn and sink within seconds on a busy stretch of the Danube.

He was questioned for “endangering waterborne traffic resulting in multiple deaths,” police said at the time.

Strong currents have hampered the search for those missing — 19 South Koreans, the second boat’s Hungarian captain and one crew member, preventing divers from reaching the submerged boat.

The collision happened on a popular part of the river, from where sightseers can view the city and parliament, which is lit up at night.

Larger river cruise boats traveling on the Danube between Germany and the Black Sea typically spend several days moored in the capital.

So far it is unclear what caused the accident, in which the 440-foot-long (135-meter) cruise ship hit and sank the smaller pleasure boat Wednesday night.

The captain, identified by Hungarian police as C. Yuriy from Odessa, in Ukraine, was “shaken by the consequences of the accident and regrets that he had no way to avoid the accident, and expresses his condolences to the families of the victims,” MTI news agency quoted his lawyers as saying Friday.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for Swiss-based Viking Cruises, which owns the larger vessel, said in a statement Friday that it was supporting and cooperating with investigations into the accident.

“We are deeply saddened by the incident and our thoughts and prayers go out to those who were impacted and as well as to their families,” the spokesman said.

“We understand the captain has been charged by the local authorities and it would be inappropriate for us to comment further while the legal process is ongoing.”