7 Killed, 21 Missing When River Cruise Ship Strikes Tour Boat
A Viking river cruise ship, the Viking Sigyn, struck a smaller sightseeing ship, the Mermaid, on the Danube River in Budapest, Hungary in poor weather conditions around 9 p.m. local time on Wednesday May 29, 2019. The impact caused the Mermaid to sink, resulting in the death of at least 7 passengers, with at least 21 still missing. 7 passengers were rescued and treated for hypothermia. The sightseeing ship was hosting a South Korean tour group at the time of the crash.
The Viking Sigyn captain, identified only as 64-year-old Yurly C. of Ukraine, in court documents, was arrested by order of a judge and was charged with endangering water traffic causing a mass disaster, which could result in a sentence of 2 to 8 years in prison.
Video of the incident posted to YouTube shows the Viking ship quickly come up on the smaller Mermaid near the Margit bridge and strike it, pushing the smaller ship underwater in a matter of seconds.
"The whole thing happened very quickly" Clay Findley, a passenger on the Viking Sigyn, told BBC News. "I thought at first we were going to miss it, but the front of the Viking hit the back of that little boat… and then the hull popped up on the opposite side of the ship, just a few seconds later, and then it was down."
The Associated Press reports that South Korean travel agency The Very Good Tour agency had arranged the tour on the Mermaid and said a decision was made to go ahead with the trip, despite the poor weather conditions.
“Other boats were making tours too and we decided to go on after passengers agreed,” Lee Sang-moo, an official from the agency, told the AP. “Our company humbly accepts all the responsibility that is ours.”
The search for survivors continued through the weekend, but higher-than-normal water levels and strong currents on the Danube River made the wreck inaccessible, complicating the search. The water level is not expected to recede for about a week.
"There were no injuries to Viking crew or Viking guests," Viking Cruises said in a statement. "We have been and continue to cooperate fully with the authorities while they undertake their investigations."
The Viking Sigyn, a Viking Longship accommodating 190 passengers, had embarked on Wednesday for a 7-night Danube Waltz cruise, which features a scenic cruise along the Danube in Budapest on the first evening of the cruise.