World

Captain in boat crash in Hungary was involved in previous collision

The Ukrainian captain of the cruise ship involved in last week's deadly collision with a sightseeing boat on the Danube River in Budapest, Hungary, was also involved in a crash in the Netherlands on April 1, Budapest's chief prosecution office said.

The 64-year-old Ukrainian man was arrested Saturday in Budapest

South Korean and Hungarian teams search for missing boat passengers on Wednesday, following a boat accident on the Danube River in Budapest last week. Hungarian police confirmed more bodies were discovered Thursday. (Ferenc Isza/AFP/Getty Images)

The Ukrainian captain of the cruise ship involved in last week's deadly collision with a sightseeing boat on the Danube River in Budapest, Hungary, was also involved in a crash in the Netherlands on April 1, Budapest's chief prosecution office said Thursday.

The news came as Hungarian authorities revealed that the number of South Korean tourists killed in the incident has risen to 19.

Rescue and recovery efforts remain ongoing for eight other South Koreans and one more member of the two-person Hungarian crew who were aboard the Hableany (Mermaid), which sunk within seconds of being hit by the 95-cabin river cruise ship.

Only seven people, all from the 33-member tourist group, are known to have survived the May 29 catastrophe.

On Thursday, Hungarian police announced that the bodies of two more South Korean males had been recovered. One was found just over three kilometres from the Margaret Bridge, the scene of the collision near the Hungarian parliament building in the capital Budapest, while the other was located almost six kilometres downstream.

Also, a female South Korean tourist's body was found in Budapest, while the body of one of the two Hungarian crew members was recovered 21 kilometres downstream from the crash site, at the town of Erd, police said.

Captain in custody

The 64-year-old captain of the Viking Sigyn cruise ship was formally arrested in Budapest on Saturday, suspected of endangering water transport leading to a deadly mass accident. He remains in custody while an appeals court rules on prosecutors' objections to his release on bail of $70,717.

Prosecutors also said the captain, identified earlier as Yuriy C. (his first name and first letter of his last name), erased data from his mobile phone after the Budapest collision, though they could not confirm that the missing information was related to their investigation.

Flowers and candles line the banks of the Danube River on Thursday. Mourners have left them in honour of the victims, and those who remain missing, after two boats collided on May 29. (Attila Kisbenedek/AFP/Getty Images)

Citing its ongoing probe, the Dutch Safety Board would not confirm if the captain of the Viking Idun — the Sigyn's sister ship, which collided on April 1 with a tanker, the Chemical Marketer, on the Western Scheldt waterway near the southern Dutch city of Terneuzen — was the same man being held as a suspect in Hungary.

According to the safety board's website, the accident happened shortly after midnight on April 1. The cruise ship was carrying 137 passengers and 43 crew members when it collided with a Maltese chemical tanker. The site said "a number of passengers were slightly injured and the damage to both ships was considerable."

Viking River Cruises, which owns the Viking Sigyn, said the ship's captain was aboard another Viking vessel when it collided with a tanker in the Netherlands earlier this year.

However, the company said he was "not serving as the ship's captain at the time of the incident."

A huge floating crane that is expected to be used to raise the Hableany from the Danube River floor has been waiting since Wednesday afternoon in north Budapest.

A floating crane arrives on the Danube River in Budapest on Wednesday, where it will help salvage the capsized tourist boat. (Bernadett Szabo/Reuters)

Nandor Jasenszky, a spokesperson for the rescue team, said divers were setting up harnesses and lifting points on the sunken tour boat, with preparations expected to be concluded by Friday. The crane will only be able to begin the lift when water levels in the Danube fall.

After falling significantly in the first days of the week, the Danube has risen again over the past 24 hours and is expected to rise a bit more until around midday Friday — due to melting snow in its upper basin — before falling again.

The identification of the South Korean victims was being conducted with the co-operation of South Korean police. Its chief superintendent, Im Byung-ho, said new techniques have made it possible to lift fingerprints off bodies that have been in the water as long as three months.