Ukranian captain to jail

A Hungarian court sentenced Ukraine’s cruise captain to five years in prison for involvement in a collision that left 27 individuals dead.

Cruise in accident

A Hungarian court sentenced Ukraine’s cruise captain to five years in prison for involvement in a collision that left 27 individuals dead.

On the fateful day of May 20, 2019, the Mermaid cruise ship carried 33 tourists hailing from South Korea and was manned by a crew consisting of two Hungarian members. In a tragic turn of events, the vessel sank mere moments after a collision with the much larger Viking Sigyn, a substantial river cruise vessel.

The calamity occurred on a critical stretch of the Danube River, in Budapest, Hungary, marking the most devastating boating accident the country had witnessed in more than half a century.

The captain of the Viking Sigyn, Yuri Chaplinsky, currently aged 68, found himself at the center of the legal proceedings. He faced charges of negligently endangering transportation safety, which resulted in a catastrophic mass accident, as ruled by the Budapest court judge. However, Chaplinsky was acquitted of the separate charge of failing to provide assistance in the aftermath of the collision.

Prior to the court’s verdict, the captain expressed profound remorse for the tragic incident. In a packed courtroom, he conveyed the haunting burden of his memories, revealing that he could find no respite even for a moment. The weight of the tragedy haunted his nights, robbing him of peaceful sleep.

Tragically, out of the 33 South Korean tourists aboard the Mermaid, only seven were fortunate enough to be rescued, while a heart-wrenching total of 25 lost their lives, along with the crew members from Hungary, including the Mermaid’s captain. Furthermore, one South Korean woman remains missing to this day, nearly four and a half years after the harrowing tragedy unfolded.

According to the prosecutors, Chaplinsky, who was at the helm of the 2,000-ton vessel Sigyn, had been inattentive to his duties for approximately five critical minutes. During this lapse in vigilance, he failed to perceive the close proximity of the smaller Mermaid, neglecting to slow down or alter course to avoid the impending collision or issue a radio alarm.

Additionally, he was accused of shirking his duty to provide assistance to those who had fallen into the water or were trapped on the sunken ship, as stated by the prosecution.

However, in a written statement submitted during the trial, which commenced in March 2020, Chaplinsky contended that he had not noticed the boat and initially believed it to be debris in the water, akin to driftwood, according to a Hungarian newspaper called Blikk.

It was only after the gravity of the situation became clear that he entered a state of shock, relinquishing command to the second officer. Ukraine’s defense lawyer reportedly implored the judge to absolve Chaplinsky of the charges, arguing that the captain of the Mermaid bore responsibility for the tragic sequence of events.

The Mermaid remained submerged at the collision site near the neo-Gothic Hungarian Parliament building for over 12 days before being raised from the riverbed with the assistance of a floating crane.

Since the immense collision, Chaplinsky has been in police custody and was placed under house arrest in Hungary in 2020, awaiting the resolution of the legal proceedings.

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