Sinking of Hableány

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Sinking of Hableány
D11 boat southbound.jpg
Hableány seen in April 2017
Date29 May 2019; 4 months ago (2019-05-29)
Time9:05 PM CEST (UTC+2)
LocationDanube, Budapest, Hungary
Coordinates47°30′50″N 19°02′42″E / 47.51389°N 19.04500°E / 47.51389; 19.04500Coordinates: 47°30′50″N 19°02′42″E / 47.51389°N 19.04500°E / 47.51389; 19.04500
CauseCollision with another vessel
Location of collision in Budapest:
Collision site is located in Budapest
Collision site
Collision site

Hableány ([ˈhɒblɛaːɲ]; Hungarian for 'Mermaid') was a 27-metre (89 ft) river cruiser operated by Panorama Deck on the Danube river in Budapest, Hungary. She had two decks and a capacity of 45 people when operating as a sightseeing vessel. On the evening of 29 May 2019, the ship was travelling upstream on the Danube in Budapest with 35 people on board when the 135-metre (443 ft) Viking Sigyn, operated by Viking Cruises, collided with her under the Margaret Bridge near the Parliament Building.

The tourists aboard Hableány were from South Korea, the majority on a planned tour by a South Korean company. Seven survivors were rescued at the scene. By 9 June 2019, 20 victims had been found dead, while seven passengers and one of the two Hungarian crew members remained missing. On 11 June four more bodies were located, inside the sunken tour boat, one of which appeared to be that of the Hungarian captain and another a six-year-old girl. As of 6 July 2019, 27 victims had been identified with one still missing.

The captain of the Viking Sigyn, identified as Yuri C., was arrested and held in custody, but released after two weeks on bail of Ft15 million (approx. 47,000).


Hableány was a 27-metre (89 ft) Moskvitch-class river cruise boat with two open decks and a capacity of 45 passengers for sightseeing[1] and 60 passengers for other configurations. She was built in the Soviet Union in 1949 and had her engine replaced in 1980 by a Hungarian company.[2] She was acquired by Panorama Deck in 2003 and had been used for regular cruises on the Danube since then.[3]

Viking Sigyn is a 135-metre (443 ft) river-cruising "longship" operated by Swiss-based Viking River Cruises.[4][5] She has four decks with 95 rooms and can carry 190 passengers.[6] The ship was christened in March 2019 and placed on the company's Danube routes.[7]


Viking Sigyn, operated by Viking Cruises, seen a day after the collision

At approximately 21:05 local time on 29 May 2019, Hableány was rammed amidships portside by Viking Sigyn while crossing under the Margaret Bridge near the Parliament Building on a 457-metre-wide (500 yd) section of the Danube.[8] Hableány had 35 people on board at the time of the collision, including the Hungarian captain and crewman, two South Korean tour guides, and 31 South Korean tourists ranging in age from 6 to 72.[8][9] The tourists were on a two-week excursion of eastern Europe organized by the Seoul-based Very Good Tour company.[2][10]

Following a review of CCTV footage from a nearby vantage point, the police stated that Hableány had capsized under the Margaret Bridge.[9] The vessel had been moving upstream towards the left riverbank to prepare for disembarking and steered left into the path of Viking Sigyn, which had been traveling parallel to Hableány.[11] The rescued passengers had not been wearing life vests, while another South Korean tourist said that cruise boats arranged by tour companies often lacked them.[2] All seven of the rescued survivors had been thrown from the upper observation deck.[12]

Rescue and recovery efforts[edit]

Hungarian minesweeper AM-31 Dunaújváros conducting search operations under the Margaret Bridge

Police and ambulance services arrived at the collision site approximately ten minutes later at 21:15, shortly after being notified of an overturned boat.[13] Search and rescue efforts began immediately, with several spotlights brought to the site and over 200 divers and medical personnel arriving within hours. Search and rescue efforts were complicated by the high water level of the Danube, which had swelled significantly due to several days of heavy rainfall, by high winds and by water temperatures of 10 to 12 °C (50 to 54 °F).[13][9] The fast-moving water, reaching speeds of 9 to 11 kilometres per hour (5.6 to 6.8 mph), caused limited visibility underwater and prevented divers from searching inside the wreckage of Hableány to recover more bodies.[11][14]

Seven of the South Korean tourists were rescued from the water and taken to local hospitals where they were treated for hypothermia and shock.[1] Most were later released.[1] Seven bodies were also pulled from the river, which were identified using finger and palm prints;[15] 19 tourists and the two crewmembers remained missing.[16] Several of the rescued passengers were found further downstream, including one at the Petőfi Bridge approximately 3 kilometres (2 mi) south;[13] one of the recovered bodies was found 12 kilometres (7.5 mi) downstream almost 2.5 hours after the collision.[11]

The first major diving operation began five days after the collision and ended with the discovery of an eighth body that was recovered by Korean divers. János Hajdu, the head of the Counter Terrorism Centre coordinating the search and rescue efforts told reporters that the divers will do everything in their power to search for bodies and survivors but entering the wreckage was forbidden, as they had deemed it life-threatening.[17] Another body was found on the same day in Harta, 110 kilometres (68 mi) downstream from Budapest, by local police.[18]

In the morning of 4 June, the sixth day, the body recovered from the wreck one day prior, was identified by the police as a Korean woman, making her the ninth known victim of the accident. After a six-hour-long diving operation, the tenth victim was raised from the ship.[19] Police also reported that they had found and identified the eleventh passenger at the town of Kulcs.[20][21] The twelfth passenger had been found at Adony.[22]

Floating crane Clark Ádám raising the Hableány

The plan of the authorities is to use Clark Ádám, a crane vessel with a 200-ton lift capacity, to lift the sunken ship from the bottom of the Danube. The arrival of the crane ship was delayed by the flooding of the river: due to its size, the equipment was unable to pass under several bridges until water levels had decreased. It wasn't until a week after the disaster that the floating crane arrived in Budapest from its home port of Komárom, but it will not be in position for the lifting until it can pass under the Margaret Bridge, which requires the water level to drop below 4.1 metres (13 ft).[23]

TEK announced on 5 June that they had recovered another passenger from the wreck.[24] Later that night a police statement explained that the body of a female passenger had been retrieved from the Danube in the afternoon, close to the site of the accident, and another had been found and identified at Ercsi.[25] Throughout on 6 June, three victims had been found near the Rákóczi Bridge, Érd and the Liberty Bridge. The latter one was identified as a crew member of Hableány.[26] On 8 June, another body of a female passenger was found in Százhalombatta, who was identified as a victim of the shipwreck on the next day.[27] As on the morning of 9 June 2019, 20 victims had been found dead, while 7 passengers and the Hungarian captain of the boat remained missing.[28][29]

On 11 June lifting of the Hableány began. Previously the salvage operation had focused on fixing wire harnesses underneath and around the vessel to prepare it for hoisting. A floating crane raised the boat from waters beneath the Margit Bridge and was reported via live television coverage. Salvage operations began at around 6:30 a.m. local time. Less than 30 minutes into the salvage work, the ship's steering room appeared. Two divers were sent in to search and discovered a body, believed to be the Hungarian captain. By 8:30 a.m. four bodies had been found, three of them believed to be South Koreans (including the only child victim, a six-year old girl),[30][31] that had been located in the wreck.[32][33][34][35] The boat was finally deposited on a barge by the floating crane.[36] Thereafter, Hableány was transferred to Csepel Island to further police, nautical and technical examinations. After draining the sludge accumulated in the interior of the passenger compartment, the experts found no more bodies in the ship.[37][38]

The Danube Water Police recovered a male victim from the Danube between Bölcske and Madocsa late in the afternoon of 12 June 2019. The search team were continuing to locate the bodies of three South Korean passengers somewhere on the river downstream of the Margaret Bridge as far as the southern state border.[39] On 22 June 2019 a corpse was found in the water, near the Csepel Island. The identification of the body was carried out, the woman so far looked for as a missing person is a victim of the Danube boat accident of 29 May 2019.[40] On 5 July 2019 the patrols of the search team found a corpse in the riverwash of the Danube in the region of Makád, who was identified on 6 July as a missing person of the Danube shipwreck.[41]

Response and investigation[edit]

South Korean President Moon Jae-in convened an emergency meeting and directed the government to send emergency rescue workers to aid the Hungarian effort, including several rescue experts who had worked on the Sewol disaster in 2014.[3][9] President Moon spoke to Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán about the situation by telephone, thanking him for his country's efforts while Orbán pledged full cooperation and support.[16] South Korean foreign minister Kang Kyung-wha travelled to Budapest and will visit the survivors along with relatives of passengers on the tour.[14]

Hungarian police also launched a criminal investigation into the collision. The captain of Viking Sigyn, a 64-year-old Ukrainian identified as Yuriy C., was interviewed and arrested the following day on suspicion of endangering water transport and causing a mass-casualty incident.[42]

On 31 May the Ministry of Interior announced that attempts to lift and recover Hableány during the first two days had been unsuccessful and that it was seeking new ways to search the lower deck for trapped passengers.[43] As of 6 June 2019, divers were attaching a harness so the sunken boat might be recovered by a 200-ton lift capacity floating crane, the Clark Ádám; water levels at that time were too high to begin the salvage operation.[42] On 7 June the crane was still positioned near the Margaret Bridge[44] as the rescue team would not risk deploying it with a rising water level, even though the crane was ready.[45]

A week after the incident, the Hungarian embassy in Seoul announced that relatives of the victims and members of the Korean authorities could travel free of charge between Seoul and Budapest, in cooperation with LOT Polish Airlines.[46] By 6 June, identification of the deceased passengers had started, with assistance by South Korean police.[47]

On 8 June the Budapest Metropolitan Police released background information on their activities to date. The officers questioned 230 persons in relation to the accident, an additional 66 were questioned as witnesses, and one person was interrogated as a suspect. The complete case file of the questioning exceeded one thousand pages. With the support of judicial and nautical experts, the police inspected the Viking Sigyn, seized camera records and took 4,896 digital photos. All data content of the shipping and information systems found on the Viking Sigyn were also seized. The inspection took more than eight hours.[48]

For a comprehensive investigation, the investigators contacted all co-authorities of the Danube states and the Dutch Police. The captain of the Viking Sigyn, C. Yuriy, who had been arrested and interrogated under suspicion of misconduct of endangering the water traffic, resulting in mass manslaughter, had not given any explanatory statement about the circumstances of the accident.[48] By 11 June 2019, he had been released on bail of Ft15 million (approx. 47,000), with his lawyers denying he was guilty of any wrongdoing.[49]

The captain was back in police custody after the Hungarian Supreme Court (Kuria) reviewed arguments from prosecutors that he should not have been released under the circumstances. [50]


  1. ^ a b c "Hungary: Seven dead and many missing after boat capsizes in Budapest". BBC News. 29 May 2019. Retrieved 29 May 2019.
  2. ^ a b c Park Chan-kyong (30 May 2019). "'No life jackets': 7 South Korean tourists dead, 21 missing in Hungary pleasure boat tragedy". South China Morning Post. Retrieved 30 May 2019.
  3. ^ a b Saling, Gergo; Denyer, Simon (30 May 2019). "Rescuers scour waters for survivors after Danube boat disaster leaves 7 dead, 21 missing". The Washington Post. Retrieved 30 May 2019.
  4. ^ "Viking Longships". Viking Cruises. 4 August 2019.
  5. ^ Dunai, Marton (29 May 2019). "Seven South Korean tourists killed, 19 missing after Hungarian boat capsizes on Danube". Reuters. Retrieved 29 May 2019.
  6. ^ "Hopes of finding missing South Koreans fade after Budapest boat tragedy". Agence France-Presse. 30 May 2019. Retrieved 30 May 2019.
  7. ^ "Viking Expands European River Fleet With Launch Of Seven New Ships" (Press release). Viking Cruises. 19 March 2019. Retrieved 30 May 2019 – via PR Newswire.
  8. ^ a b "7 South Koreans dead, 19 missing after tourist boat sinks in Hungary". CNN. 29 May 2019. Retrieved 29 May 2019.
  9. ^ a b c d Novak, Benjamin; Santora, Marc; Choe Sang-hun (30 May 2019). "After Budapest Boat Crash, Fading Hope for Survivors and a Criminal Inquiry". The New York Times. Retrieved 30 May 2019.
  10. ^ "7 dead, 21 missing after sightseeing boat sinks in Hungary". Ottawa Citizen. 30 May 2019. Retrieved 7 June 2019.
  11. ^ a b c "Budapest boat crash leaves 7 South Korean tourists dead; cruise ship captain detained". Los Angeles Times. Associated Press. 30 May 2019. Retrieved 30 May 2019.
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  13. ^ a b c Novak, Benjamin (29 May 2019). "Boat Sinks in Danube, Killing at Least 7 on Tour of Budapest". The New York Times. Retrieved 29 May 2019.
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  15. ^ "Captain charged over Budapest boat tragedy, S Koreans identified". Al Jazeera. 1 June 2019. Retrieved 1 June 2019.
  16. ^ a b Kim Seung-yeon (30 May 2019). "7 South Koreans killed, 19 missing in Hungary boat sinking". Yonhap. Retrieved 30 May 2019.
  17. ^ Gorondi, Pablo (3 June 2019). "Hungary: Death toll from Danube boat collision reaches 9". The Washington Post. Retrieved 4 June 2019.
  18. ^ "Hungarian boat tragedy: two more bodies recovered as South Korean divers join search for missing tourists". South China Morning Post. Agence France-Presse. 4 June 2019. Retrieved 4 June 2019.
  19. ^ TEG (4 June 2019). "Újabb holttestet hoztak fel az elsüllyedt hajóból". (in Hungarian). Retrieved 4 June 2019.
  20. ^ Kovács, Dávid (4 June 2019). "Kulcsnál találták meg a Hableány-tragédia legújabb áldozatát" [Latest victim of the Hableány disaster found at Kulcs]. (in Hungarian). Retrieved 4 June 2019. A further victim of the tragedy of the Mermaid cruise ship on Wednesday, this time at Kulcs in Fejér County, writes This is the eleventh found body
  21. ^ "Azonosították a hajóbaleset újabb áldozatát / Another victim of the ship accident identified". (in Hungarian). Retrieved 4 June 2019.
  22. ^ "Another Danube ship collision victim identified in Budapest!". Daily News Hungary. 5 June 2019. Retrieved 5 June 2019.
  23. ^ "Friss hírek a Clark Ádám hajódaruról: nem jut el a Hableány roncsához a monstrum". (in Hungarian). 5 June 2019. Retrieved 5 June 2019.
  24. ^ "Ship Collision: Salvage Delayed by High Danube Water Level". Hungary Today. 5 June 2019. Retrieved 5 June 2019.
  25. ^ "Újabb azonosítás / Further identification". (in Hungarian). Retrieved 5 June 2019. In the afternoon of June 5, 2019, the bodies of the Danube highlighted at the Margaret Bridge and Ercsi were identified. The two women who have been missing so far are two more South Korean victims of a shipwreck on May 29, 2019
  26. ^ "Megtalálták a Hableány magyar matrózának holttestét". Origo (in Hungarian). Retrieved 12 June 2019.
  27. ^ "Százhalombattán találták meg a huszadik áldozatot". Hírtükör (in Hungarian). Retrieved 12 June 2019.
  28. ^ "Another victim identified" (PDF). 9 June 2019.
  29. ^ Three more victims found on Danube River, bringing official death toll from boat capsize to 19 YouTube-video of ARIRANG NEWS YouTube channel - 6 June 2019
  30. ^ Crossland, David (12 June 2019). "Wreck of tourist boat pulled from Danube after crash that killed 28". The Times. Retrieved 12 June 2019.
  31. ^ "The child identified" (PDF). 12 June 2019.
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  38. ^ "Twenty-six hours of intensive work" (PDF). 13 June 2019.
  39. ^ "Another victim identified" (PDF).
  40. ^ "The woman recovered at the Csepel section of the Danube was also a passenger of the Hableány" (PDF). 28 June 2019.
  41. ^ "The woman found at the Makad section of the Danube was also a passenger of the Hableány" (PDF). 6 July 2019.
  42. ^ a b "Hungary: Death toll rises to 19 in Danube tour boat crash". Associated Press. 6 June 2019.
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  45. ^ "100 méteres hevedert kell áthúzni a Hableány alatt" (in Hungarian). 7 June 2019.
  46. ^ "Magyarország Szöuli Nagykövetsége". Embassy of Hungary in Seoul. Retrieved 5 June 2019 – via Facebook.
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  50. ^ "Hungary: Captain in Danube boat crash back in police custody". Associated Press. 29 July 2019.

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