Captain charged over Budapest boat tragedy, S Koreans identified

Ukrainian captain of Viking Sigyn cruise ship denied bail as police identify seven South Korean tourists who died.

    Flowers placed next to Budapest's Margaret Bridge in respect for the victims of the tragedy [Marko Djurica/Reuters]
    Flowers placed next to Budapest's Margaret Bridge in respect for the victims of the tragedy [Marko Djurica/Reuters]

    The captain of a river cruise ship that collided with a smaller sightseeing vessel in Hungary has been charged as police say they have identified seven South Korean tourists who died in the tragedy.

    A Budapest court official on Saturday 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 for questioning on Thursday a day after his vessel collided with the smaller Mermaid, carrying 35 people, mainly South Korean tourists, causing it to overturn and sink on a busy stretch of the Danube.

    190531041740706

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

    Meanwhile, police said they had identified the seven bodies of the South Koreans found so far, without releasing their names.

    "We could do that first using finger and palm prints taken from them, the corpses, and cooperating with South Korean authorities, and second, using photographs shown to victims' family members, who identified their relatives," police spokesman Kristof Gal said.

    Strong currents have hampered the search for another 21 people still 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.

    It is so far unclear what caused the accident, in which the 135-metre cruise ship hit and sank the smaller pleasure boat on Wednesday night.

    Water levels are expected to peak on Saturday and the current depth of the river, just short of 6 metres should fall to about 4 metres by mid-week, the National Water Authority said in a statement.

    That would leave the wreckage very close to the surface, according to sonar imaging, and should make it easier to search it for bodies and prepare to remove it from the riverbed, something divers have been unable to do under the current hostile conditions.

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

    SOURCE: News agencies