Hungarian court begins trial of cruise ship captain charged in deadly Danube collision

Viking Sigyn on the morning after the collision with Hableány (Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Heringcápa)

A court in Hungary has begun the trial of the captain of a river cruise ship that collided with and sank a tour boat on the Danube River in an incident that left 29 people dead in May 2019.

On Wednesday, March 11, prosecutors in Budapest formally charged the Ukrainian captain of the Viking Cruises river cruise ship Viking Sigyn with negligence leading to mass casualties and 35 counts of failing to give assistance after his vessel struck and severely damaged the tour boat Hableány, causing it to sink in seconds, on the night (local time) of May 29, 2019.

The incident resulted in the deaths of 27 South Korean tourists as well as both crewmembers on Hableány. Further, no trace has yet been found of a female South Korean passenger who was also on the tour boat when it sank.

Prosecutors claim Viking Sigyn‘s captain had not been paying attention and was therefore not properly focused on navigating his vessel in the minutes prior to the crash.

One of the prosecutors said the captain had had enough time to see the smaller tour boat and manoeuvre to avoid a collision but had not done so.

The defendant, who has since denied any wrongdoing, was indicted in November for his involvement in the incident.

Following the indictment, the captain was offered a comparatively lighter sentence of a nine-year suspension of his boat operator’s licence on top of a nine-year prison sentence in exchange for a guilty plea. However, he rejected this proposal and instead requested a trial.

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