History

63 Years Ago, The Steamship Known As The “Titanic Of Lake Balaton”, Tilted And Capsized Killing 22

On 30th of May 1954, exactly on this day 63 years ago, a Hungarian-made steam-powered passenger ship called “Pajtás” tilted and capsized in Lake Balaton killing 22 people.

Memorial of the victims in Balatonfüred (photo: amirolatortenelem.blog.hu)

The ship was manufactured in 1918, by Schlick-Nicholson shipyard in Budapest. During World War Two it was used as a passenger ship on the Danube in the capital but in 1944 it sank in the river after hitting an underwater mine. In the late 1940s, the ship was completely re-built and re-designed to carry passengers on Lake Balaton. Its capacity was extended from 150 to 200 but without any official stability test or approval.

On the day of the tragedy a lot of people were celebrating children’s day, therfore Pajtás was packed with 178 passengers. It was starting from Balatonfüred to Siófok, when shortly after departure, the ship tilted to port then starboard. The passengers were in shock as chaos and panic broke out on the board. The captain of the ship, János Heisz, tried to restore stability but the third tilt (again to port) was deadly, and the ship capsized.  The steam was emergency released by boiler room operator Gyula Vámosi, which cost him his life but heroically prevented more casualties by explosion of the boiler.

The exact number of casualties is still a matter of discussion. The official report by communist newspapers counted 12 people. The list made by survivors on the 45th anniversary of the sinking counted 22 names. One witness said, he counted 43 bodies after the accident.

The following video footage about the tragedy is available only in Hungarian, however, the pictures speak for themselves:

via origo.hu and wikipedia; featured photo: Sándor Bojár – MTI (via origo.hu); video: Szellemvárosok – Abandoned Hungary YouTube channel