Hungary boat tragedy captain released on bail

The Mermaid, a Hungarian boat which sank in the Danube river near Margaret bridge, is moved away during a salvage operation in Budapest, Hungary, on Tuesday. — Reuters

BUDAPEST — A Hungarian court ordered on Wednesday the release on bail of a river cruise captain suspected of causing a collision with a sightseeing vessel in Budapest last month which left at least 24 dead.

The Mermaid, carrying mostly South Korean holidaymakers, capsized and sank May 29, seconds after colliding with the much larger Viking Sigyn on a busy stretch of the river in the center of Budapest.

The Sigyn's captain, a Ukrainian national identified only as Yuriy C., was charged on June 1 after being detained on suspicion of "endangering waterborne traffic resulting in multiple deaths".

Twenty-four people are known to have died, while four others remain missing.

The 64-year-old, who has denied causing the accident, was released on bail of 15 million forints (47,000 euros, $53,000), the Metropolitan Regional Court said in a statement.

The decision upholds a first instance ruling that was appealed by Hungarian prosecutors.

He is not permitted to leave the Hungarian capital, must wear a tracking device and appear in person twice a week before criminal investigators during the ongoing probe into the cause of the tragedy, the court said.

Hungarian prosecutors said last week that the captain was also under investigation over the collision of another Viking ship with a chemicals tanker in the Netherlands on April 1.

Rescue workers lifted the sunken Mermaid from the river on Tuesday, recovering four more bodies to raise the toll to 24.

Only seven of the 35 people on board are known to have survived the accident.

Janos Hajdu, head of the police unit that led the salvage operation, said on Wednesday that authorities have doubled the number of personnel scouring the Danube south of Budapest for the four missing people.

Serbian authorities are also monitoring the river as it crosses the Hungarian border, he said.

The prospects of finding anyone alive are considered practically zero, but South Korea has insisted it wants all the victims found. — AFP