Captain in fatal Budapest cruise crash released on bail

The Ukrainian captain of a large hotel ship that collided with a small tourist sightseeing boat in central Budapest on May 29 was released on bail here on Wednesday, according to official sources.

Twenty-eight people, including 26 South Korean tourists and two Hungarian crew members, died after the Hableany (Mermaid) sightseeing boat capsized and sank in seconds after colliding with the Swiss Viking Sigyn cruise ship. Four people are still registered as missing.

The captain of the Viking Sigyn, 64-year-old C. Yuriy from Odessa, has been detained after being questioned as a suspect on May 30.

Three days after his detention, the captain has been released on bail, but due to a prosecution appeal he remained in preliminary detention. On Wednesday, an appeals court in Budapest confirmed the earlier ruling to release the captain on a 15 million Hungarian forint (52,600 U.S. dollars) bail.

The captain’s lawyer reiterated that the captain was under the shock of the tragic events, but stood by his earlier testimony in which he denied any wrongdoing.

On Tuesday, four bodies — including those of the Mermaid’s captain and a 6-year-old girl — were found as search and rescue teams slowly lifted the wreck from the Danube.

Authorities also said that since the inside of the ship was filled with mud, they may still find bodies within its confines.

Also on Wednesday, the prime minister of the Republic of Korea thanked the Hungarian authorities for their relentless efforts to recover bodies from the sunken tourist boat, according to a Hungarian government statement.

“South Korean Prime Minister Lee Nak-yeon thanked Prime Minister Viktor Orban for his condolences, and also thanked the Hungarian government for its support and cooperation,” the statement said.

Lee Nak-yeon also said that “the special attention and support manifested during the search and rescue efforts which were made to locate the persons who disappeared in the accident provided great comfort and hope for the Korean government and people.”

The South Korean premier said he sincerely hoped that the joint efforts to overcome the situation would further strengthen the friendship and mutual trust between the two nations.