23rd Korean victim found in Hungary, 3 still missing

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23rd Korean victim found in Hungary, 3 still missing

The body of a Korean victim in his 60s was recovered from the Danube River in Hungary Wednesday evening around 110 kilometers (68 miles) from the site of the sinking of a tourist boat in Budapest, the Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed Thursday.

However, the joint rapid response team said it has so far not found any additional bodies in the Hableany sightseeing boat, which was salvaged Tuesday about two weeks after it capsized. Korean rescue workers were set to continue their search of the interior of the wreckage, which was stationed at Csepel Port on Thursday, after facing delays because of Hungarian authorities’ concern that they may tamper with evidence in the prosecution’s probe.

Three Korean victims still remain missing, while the confirmed death toll is 25. There were 33 Koreans, along with two Hungarian crew members, on board the Hableany when it capsized on May 29 after a larger Swiss ship, the Viking Sigyn, collided into it. There were seven survivors, all Koreans, rescued on the day of the sinking.

Seven bodies were immediately recovered by Hungarian and Korean rescue workers and divers have been working to find every missing victim.

The youngest victim, a six-year-old girl, was among four bodies, including the Hableany’s captain, discovered inside the ship when it was initially lifted from the river Tuesday. The child was discovered in the arms of her grandmother, a rescue worker later revealed.

This action was likely to protect her granddaughter upon the impact from the collision with the Viking Sigyn, according to the rescue worker.

The Korean government has been calling on Hungarian investigators to determine who is responsible for the boat accident and hold them culpable. But a Hungarian local court released the 64-year-old Ukrainian captain of Viking Sigyn, identified as Yuriy C., on conditional bail of 15 million Hungarian forint ($52,600) on Wednesday. The captain had been arrested on June 1 and initially granted a conditional bail, which was later appealed.

Hungarian prosecutors, overseeing the probe into the accident, said that they could not understand the court decision to dismiss its appeal, citing concerns that the “captain may destroy evidence.”

The court ruling was also a disappointment the nearly 50 family members of victims who have been observing the search operation for the past two weeks in Budapest.

“The captain’s release came under the condition that he wears an electronic anklet,” a South Korean Foreign Ministry official said Thursday. “This is something that the Hungarian court decided, so it won’t be appropriate to comment on it. However, our government from the beginning has requested the punishment of those responsible for the accident and will continue such efforts.”

The captain had been accused of negligence and was criticized following the release of CCTV footage of the accident on May 29, which showed that his larger cruise ship appeared to flee the scene of the accident in an apparent hit-and-run case after it collided with the Hableany, leaving the sightseeing boat and its passengers stranded.

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]
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