Captain gets 5 years in prison for deadly Hungary boat disaster
A Hungarian court sentenced a Ukrainian cruise captain to five years in prison Tuesday for his involvement in a collision on the Danube River in 2019 that left 27 people dead.
On 20 May 2019, the Mermaid sightseeing boat carrying 33 South Korean tourists and two Hungarian crew members sank within seconds after colliding with the much larger Viking Sigyn river cruise vessel.
The disaster, on a busy stretch of the Danube in the heart of Budapest, was Hungary’s worst boating accident in more than half a century.
Yuri Chaplinsky, now 68 and at the helm of the larger Sigyn vessel, was found guilty of endangering water transport, leading to a deadly mass accident, the Budapest court judge said.
However, Chaplinsky was acquitted of failing to provide help.
Before the verdict, the captain voiced his “immense regret” for the 2019 disaster.
“I can’t rest even for a minute because the memories of this terrible tragedy. I can’t sleep at night because of them,” he said visibly devastated in front of a packed courtroom.
Only seven South Koreans could be rescued, while 25 died, along with both Hungarian crew members, including the Mermaid’s captain.
A South Korean woman remains missing almost four-and-a-half years after the tragedy.
According to prosecutors, Chaplinsky, the person steering the 2,000-tonne Sigyn, did not concentrate on his duties for at least five minutes and was unaware of the dangerous proximity of the much smaller Mermaid, failing to slow down and steer away from it, or send radio alarm.
He then allegedly neglected his duty to provide help to those who fell in the water or were trapped on board the sunken boat, prosecutors said.
However, in a written statement read out during the trial, which began in March 2020, Chaplinsky stated that he didn’t notice the boat and thought it had hit driftwood, according to Hungarian newspaper Blikk.
When he realised what had happened, he went into shock and let the second officer take command.
The Ukrainian’s defence lawyer asked the judge to acquit his client of all charges, arguing that the captain of the Mermaid was the only person responsible for the tragedy.
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