It is still unclear how last week’s tragic ship collision on the Danube exactly happened and how the small boat, Mermaid (Hableány), ended up in front of the Viking Sigyn. Many experts conclude that it might have been Viking Sigyn that made the fatal mistake by changing its course, starting an overtake before the collision without informing the other shipmaster. It seems the cruiser should have also used a reduced speed and waited for the smaller boat to pass under the bridge. None of this occurred, which likely led to the horrible tragedy.
In a press release, the Association of Passenger Shipping Companies (Személyhajósok Szövetsége) stated that the operative Shipping Regulations regulate traffic situations where boats meet each other (i.e. ships travelling close to and opposite one another, as well as overtaking and crossing). These rules clearly state the procedures required for a commenced overtaking. The most important requirements for this are communication and permission from the boat in front by the overtaking vessel, (especially in a section so frequented and relatively narrow), while the overtaking must be carried out at safe speed without any contact between the vessels.
According to Zoltán Tolnay, captain of a nearby boat, the Ukranian shipmaster of Sigyn did not warn the Mermaid he would commence the overtaking. Tolnay stated to Hungarian private broadcaster TV2, that they were listening to the radio but the Ukranian captain did not signal on any of the frequencies.
Tolnay said the Sigyn captain signaled by radio only after the Viking had already pushed the small boat under its hull. Also, the crew could not understand what the captain was saying, as he used English, German and Russian words within one sentence.
The 64-year-old captain of the Viking Sigyn cruise ship was questioned under suspicion of causing the disaster and detained late on Thursday. He denies misconduct.
Meanwhile, a new video footage uploaded on the internet shows the tragic accident as it happened. It shows how the cruiser Viking hit the smaller vessel and also reveals that the Sigyn immediately stopped after the collision, and seemingly backed up to the place of the accident before proceeding to moor at the quay.
Police experts started salvaging the wreck of the sight-seeing boat but high waters and bad underwater visibility have made the work difficult and dangerous, slowing down the authorities significantly. Divers already tried and failed on Thursday to get close to where the wreckage lies nine meters deep – almost two meters deeper than initially expected.