June 11, 2019 / 5:13 AM / 15 days ago

Hungarian tourist boat salvaged, two weeks after fatal accident

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Hungarian salvage crews recovered four bodies on Tuesday as they raised the wreck of a boat from the Danube River in Budapest, two weeks after it capsized with a group of South Korean tourists on board.

The Mermaid boat sank in seconds on May 29 after a large cruise liner hit it from behind under a bridge in the Hungarian capital during heavy rain. Twenty-six tourists and two Hungarian crew died in the worst disaster on the river in half a century.

The four victims found inside were being identified, and search teams had been doubled to try to find four others who remained unaccounted for, police spokesman Kristof Gal told reporters.

Crews lifted the Mermaid onto a barge that will take it to Csepel, an industrial port in south Budapest.

Receding floodwaters had allowed the salvage crews to raise the vessel after two weeks of often arduous work in strong currents and poor visibility.

“We finished underwater work yesterday,” Industrial diver Zoltan Papp told Reuters. “I was the last one to dive... Some days we could see ... just 10 centimetres (4 inches). It was like being in a heavy snowfall or fog.”

The captain of the second boat involved in the collision, cruise liner Viking Sigyn, is being held on suspicion of misconduct in waterborne traffic leading to mass casualties.

Police have identified him as 64-year-old C. Yuriy from Odessa, Ukraine. His lawyers said he is devastated but did nothing wrong.

The liner’s owner, Swiss-based Viking Cruises Ltd, has said it is cooperating with Hungarian investigators.

Writing by Marton Dunai, Editing by Andrew Heavens and John Stonestreet

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