Captain in fatal Budapest boat crash was sober at the time – police

A man looks at the Mermaid, a Hungarian boat which sank in the Danube river near Margaret bridge, after it was moved away during a salvage operation in Budapest, Hungary, in this handout picture released on June 13, 2019. Hungarian Police/Handout via REUTERS

BUDAPEST (Reuters) – Hungarian police said on Tuesday they had found no evidence of alcohol or drug abuse by the captain of a cruise ship that struck and sank a small tourist vessel last month, killing 28 mostly Korean people on board.

The Mermaid boat sank in seconds on May 29 after the Viking Sigyn cruise liner hit it from behind under a bridge in the Hungarian capital during heavy rain, the worst disaster on the river in more than half a century.

“We launched the investigation as soon as we got on board (the Sigyn),” Budapest police spokesman Soma Csecsi told a news conference. “As a first step we took samples from the captain. He had not consumed alcohol, nor taken drugs.”

Police are also looking into whether the captain may have been too tired to head up a ship, he added, without offering conclusions.

The Viking captain was detained on suspicion of misconduct in waterborne traffic leading to mass casualties. He was released on a 15 million forint (£41,502) bail last week.

Police have identified him as 64-year-old C. Yuriy from Odessa, Ukraine. His lawyers have said he is devastated but did nothing wrong. He now wears a location transmitter and is confined to Budapest.

The liner’s owner, Swiss-based Viking Cruises Ltd, has said it is cooperating with Hungarian investigators.

Asked whether the Viking captain was solely responsible or whether the Mermaid may also have made a mistake, Csecsi said thus far there was only sufficient reason to suspect one person, the Ukrainian captain.

The investigation continues, with 60 detectives and experts working on it. The search continues for three victims and will continue as long as there is any hope of finding the bodies, Csecsi added.

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