Sinking of Hableány
Hableány seen in April 2017
|Date||29 May 2019|
|Time||9:05 PM CEST (UTC+2)|
|Location||Danube, Budapest, Hungary|
|Cause||Collision with another vessel|
|Location of collision in Budapest:|
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 onboard Hableány were from South Korea, with the majority on a planned tour by a South Korean company. Seven survivors were rescued at the scene. By the morning of 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.
The captain of the Viking Sigyn, identified as Yuri C., was arrested and held in custody, but later released on bail of Ft15 million.
Hableány was a 27-metre (89 ft) river cruise boat with two open decks and a capacity of 45 passengers for sightseeing 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. She was acquired by Panorama Deck in 2003 and had been used for regular cruises on the Danube since then.
Viking Sigyn is a 135-metre (443 ft) hotelship operated by Swiss-based Viking River Cruises. She has four decks with 95 rooms and can carry 190 passengers. The ship was christened in March 2019 and placed on the company's Danube routes.
At approximately 21:05 local time on 29 May 2019, Hableány was clipped from behind by Viking Sigyn while crossing under the Margaret Bridge near the Parliament Building on a 457-metre-wide (500 yd) section of the Danube. 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. The tourists were on a two-week excursion of eastern Europe organized by the Seoul-based Very Good Tour company.
Following a review of CCTV footage from a nearby vantage point, the police stated that Hableány had tipped on her side while under the Margaret Bridge. The vessel had been moving towards the riverbank to prepare for disembarking and steered slightly left into the path of Viking Sigyn, which had been traveling parallel to Hableány. 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. All seven of the rescued survivors had been thrown from the upper observation deck.
Rescue and recovery efforts
Police and ambulance services arrived at the collision site approximately ten minutes later at 21:15, shortly after being notified of an overturned boat. 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). 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.
Seven of the South Korean tourists were rescued from the water and taken to local hospitals where they were treated for hypothermia and shock. Most were later released. Seven bodies were also pulled from the river, which were identified using finger and palm prints; 19 tourists and the two crewmembers remained missing. Several of the rescued passengers were found further downstream, including one at the Petőfi Bridge approximately 3 kilometres (2 mi) south; one of the recovered bodies was found 12 kilometres (7.5 mi) downstream almost 2.5 hours after the collision.
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. Another body was found on the same day in Harta, 110 kilometres (68 mi) downstream from Budapest, by local police.
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. Police also reported that they had found and identified the eleventh passenger at the town of Kulcs. The twelfth passenger had been found at Adony.
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).
TEK announced on 5 June that they had recovered another passenger from the wreck. 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. 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. 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. 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.
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), that had been located in the wreck. The boat was finally deposited on a barge by the floating crane. 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.
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.
Response and investigation
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. 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. South Korean foreign minister Kang Kyung-wha travelled to Budapest and will visit the survivors along with relatives of passengers on the tour.
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.
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. 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. On 7 June the crane was still positioned near the Margaret Bridge as the rescue team would not risk deploying it with a rising water level, even though the crane was ready.
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. By 6 June, identification of the deceased passengers had started, with assistance by South Korean police.
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 hotel ship, seized camera records and took 4,896 digital photos. All data content of the shipping and information systems found on the hotel ship were also seized. The inspection took more than eight hours.
For a comprehensive investigation, the investigators contacted all co-authorities of the Danube states and the Dutch Police. The captain of the hotel ship, 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. 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.
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A further victim of the tragedy of the Mermaid cruise ship on Wednesday, this time at Kulcs in Fejér County, writes Police.hu. This is the eleventh found body
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- Media related to Sinking of Hableány at Wikimedia Commons