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River Danube: Ukrainian captain jailed after fatal river tour boat crash

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The captain of a cruise ship which collided with a small tour boat on the River Danube in Budapest, killing 28 people, has been jailed for five years.

During a rainstorm in May 2019, the Mermaid, carrying South Korean tourists, sank within seconds of the crash.

The Ukrainian captain of the Vikyn Sigyn cruise ship, Yuri Chaplinsky, denied wrongdoing but was found guilty of gross negligence.

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Chaplinsky is expected to appeal.

The disaster was the worst in 30 years on the Danube, Europe’s second-longest river.

Hungarian prosecutors told a court on in March 2020 that Chaplinsky had failed to pay sufficient attention and had not properly focused on steering the ship for several minutes during the downpour.

“He did not sense the Mermaid’s presence, did not radio or send out emergency sound signals,” Miklos Novaki told the court.

The Viking Sigyn cruise ship struck the Mermaid tour boat just after 21:00 local time (19:00 GMT) on 29 May as both vessels passed under Budapest’s Margaret Bridge.

Seven of the 35 people on board were rescued and several bodies quickly recovered, but others were swept away in the swollen river or trapped inside the boat.

Police said the boat sank within seconds of the collision.

“The current was so fast and people were floating away,” one survivor, identified only by her surname Jung, told South Korea’s Yonhap news agency.

Twenty five of those killed were South Koreans. The Mermaid’s captain and its crew member also died.

Only seven Korean passengers survived the accident, while one Korean is still unaccounted for.

Chaplinsky, who has been in custody since 2019, told the court that he was “deeply sorry” about the fatal accident.

“I cannot escape the memories of this terrible tragedy for a minute, I cannot sleep, and I think this is what I have to live with for the rest of my life,” he said.

The 68-year-old was acquitted by the court on the charge of failing to provide help.

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