More survivors from South Korea were interviewed by a remote hearing at the Pest District Court on Thursday in the trial of the 2019 Danube boat accident. All witnesses lost family members or friends in the tragedy. There were 35 people on board the pleasure boat “Hableány” (Mermaid), 33 South Korean tourists, and two Hungarian crew members. Seven tourists were rescued, the bodies of 27 victims were recovered, one South Korean passenger is still missing.
This article was originally published on our sister-site, Ungarn Heute.
The court began hearing the survivors’ testimonies back in November, but the proceeding had to be interrupted due to problems with translating. On Thursday, the court appointed a new interpreter who was well understood by the witnesses and had already interpreted for most of them during the investigation phase.
On May 29, 2019, the cruise ship “Viking Sigyn” collided
with the tour boat, “Hableány,” which as a result sank near Margaret Bridge. There were 35 people on board: 33 South Korean tourists and two Hungarian crew members. Seven tourists were rescued, the bodies of 27 victims were recovered, and one South Korean passenger is missing to this day.
The 65-year-old Ukrainian captain of the cruise ship has been charged with “reckless misconduct in waterborne traffic leading to mass casualties,” and “35 counts of failure to provide assistance” after the collision.
The court again questioned the South Korean woman, Hwang Sung Ja, who repeated in a faltering voice that she had spent about thirty minutes in the water before being rescued. The woman lost three of her relatives in the accident, and her aunt is the person who is still missing. She said she is still afraid in the dark, can’t sleep properly, and has been unable to work since the incident.
I didn’t see or hear any light or sound warning before the collision. When I fell into the water and tried to swim to the surface, I felt the big cruise ship passing over us. I lost my family in this accident, the captain should be punished accordingly,”
she told the court.
Another witness, Jung Jong A, said that when she reached the surface of the water and saw that the big boat that had hit them would not stop, he thought they would all die right there. Several people came up from under the water, shouting, and trying to stay alive. In the meantime, another boat came along, and although she didn’t see it hit any people, it was moving in the same line as the people in the water. When this boat also left, there were only two of them left in the river, and she could hear no shouting or anything else. The young woman lost her brother in the accident.
A third survivor, Au Hi Cheal, said they were taking photos when they saw the Viking Sigyn cruise ship coming toward them. At first he thought the boat was going to pass them, but someone yelled that the ship was going to run them over. He fell into the water and his foot got stuck on something, but he managed to free himself. Underwater, he opened his eyes to look for lights, and thereby managed to swim to the surface. The man lost his wife and two friends in the accident.
Kim Jong Mi said that they were on board with her sister, brother, and daughter. They were in the back of the boat and saw the big ship approaching, even making eye contact with a passenger on the other ship when her brother started screaming. She felt two jolts, after which the boat capsized and they all fell into the water.
“I’m afraid of the water because I can’t swim,” admitted the woman, who finally saw a life ring and grabbed it, screaming in the strong current to be rescued. The woman lost her sister and brother in the accident.
Her daughter, Jun Nara, also testified in court, saying there were two collisions in which the cruise ship turned sideways and they fell into the water. She also heard people calling for help. During the fall, she bounced against the chairs and tables on deck, making it very difficult for her to get to the surface. She admitted she was rescued by another survivor who shouted to her to start swimming.
Police acquired several photos from the woman, taken shortly before the tragedy. In some of them, the cruise ship “Viking Sigyn” also appears.
The next hearing will be held on March 31.
Featured photo by Márton Mónus/MTI