The captain of a river cruise boat that collided with another vessel in Hungary's capital in 2019, killing at least 27 people most of them South Korean tourists, was found guilty on Tuesday of negligence leading to a fatal mass catastrophe and sentenced to five years in prison.
Judge Leona Nemeth with the Pest Central District Court found that the negligence of the Ukrainian captain, Yuriy Chaplinsky, had caused his river cruise boat, the Viking Sigyn, to collide with the tourist boat Hableany (Mermaid) from behind, causing it to sink into the Danube River within seconds.
The court acquitted Chaplinsky of 35 counts of failure to render aid. He may appeal.
The collision occurred May 29, 2019, when the Hableany, carrying mostly the South Korean tourists, sank after being struck beneath Budapest's Margit Bridge by the much larger Viking Sigyn.
Seven South Koreans were rescued from the water in the heavy rain following the collision, and 27 people were recovered dead including the two-member Hungarian crew. One South Korean is still unaccounted for.
Some of the victims’ bodies were found weeks after the crash more than 100 kilometres downstream.
The Hableany spent more than 12 days underwater at the collision site near the neo-Gothic Hungarian Parliament building, before being lifted from the river bed by a floating crane.
Chaplinsky, the captain of the Viking Sigyn, had been in police custody since the collision, including being remanded to house arrest in Hungary since 2020. Part of the time Chaplinksy has already served will count toward his five-year sentence.
In a final statement before the verdict Tuesday, Chaplinksy called the collision a “horrible tragedy," and said that the deaths of “so many innocent victims" kept him awake at night.
"This will stay with me for the rest of my life,” he said.
Three staffers from the South Korean Embassy in Budapest were present for the reading of the verdict, but no South Korean family members of the victims attended the hearing.