Investigators question Arbat ship captain.

23/7 Tass 156

MOSCOW, July 23 (Itar-Tass) — Investigators have questioned Yuri Tuchin, captain of the second ship, “Arbat”, that passed by the MS Bulgaria in distress, Investigation Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin told Itar-Tass on Saturday.

“As the captain of the ship reported to investigators voluntarily, he has been released on his own recognizance. During the investigation, he should not leave Kazan,” Markin said.

Earlier, on investigators’ query Tuchin was questioned in St. Petersburg.

Criminal proceedings were instituted against Tuchin and the captain of the Dunaisky cargo ship, Alexander Yegorov, on July 12. They passed by the Bulgaria ship in distress without giving it any assistance. They can face up to two years if found guilty of deliberately ignoring a vessel in distress.

The offense is punished with either a large fine or an imprisonment of up to two years.

“Two cargo ships sailed past people in distress but no assistance was given,” eyewitnesses said.

Transport Minister Igor Levitin promised that the punishment would be severe.

Arabella Captain Roman Lizalin told Rossiya 24 channel that the barge crew, which did not stop for picking up passengers and sailors from the MS Bulgaria, behaved correctly. The Arabella was the ship that picked up survivors from the Bulgaria.

“The barge was not maneuverable enough to rescue people from the river water. We asked the barge crew to move away so that they did not impede the rescue effort. We rapidly picked up people from the water while the barge crew was still preparing to send boats for their rescue,” he said.

“We did not know the scale of the disaster at first,” Lizalin said. “We realized how large it was when we approached a rescue raft from where the May Day signal was sent. The Bulgaria first mate told us,” he said.

Argorechtur General Director Svetlana Inyakina and senior expert of the Kama branch of the Russian River Register Yakov Ivashov have been detained in the investigation of the MS Bulgaria wreck, Markin said. Both were charged with rendering unsafe services, which caused more than two deaths through negligence (paragraph 3, article 238 of the Russian Criminal Code). The possible penalty may reach ten years in prison.

Investigative procedures are taking place at the Kama branch of the Russian River Register, the Kama River Shipping Company, the Volga-Kama Shipping Company based in Perm, the Volga river transport supervisory department in the Nizhny Novgorod region and the Kazan river port.

The MS Bulgaria sank in a storm in the Kuibyshevskoye dam lake, three kilometres away from the shore, on July 10. The ship built in Czechoslovakia in 1955 titled to the right and sank within minutes. The death toll has reached 114. In all, there were 208 people aboard, some of them unregistered. Seventy-nine were rescued. Fifteen are still missing.

The Russian River Register permitted the Bulgaria to carry no more than 120 people.

The Bulgaria had six rescue rafts for 120 people and two rescue boats for 36. It had compartments for one, two, three or four passengers.

The Kama River Shipping Company is the official owner of the Bulgaria. It leased the ship to Vodaflot, and the latter sub-leased the Bulgaria to Argorechflot in 2010. The ship made voyages from Kazan to Samara, Nizhny Novgorod, Bolgary and Volgograd.

Shipbuilders said that the diesel-and-electric-powered vessels of the Bulgaria type had a service life of no more than 20 years. Longer use was possible on the condition of constant maintenance and modernization.

The Bulgaria had its last full checkout at the Perm shipyard on May 24, 2007.

Some 120-passenger ships are cruising rivers in European Russia. An average period of their use is 30 years. There are three vessels of the Bulgaria type.

About 14.5 million tours went on river cruises in Russia in 2010.

The operation of all ships similar with the sunken MS Bulgaria has been suspended, Russian Transport Minister Igor Levitin said. “The future of these ships depends directly on the outcome of the MS Bulgaria wreck investigation,” he said.

President Dmitry Medvedev demanded the most thorough investigation of the MS Bulgaria wreck.

“We must verify the condition of the entire river fleet, including the issue of shipping and tourism licenses, the selling of tickets and plenty of other factors, which have had a direct or indirect effect on the recent tragedy,” he told law enforcers.

“We are unable to replace all the river and sea vessels within a year or several years. These are expensive assets. We must admit that not a single river vessel has been built within the past 20 years,” Medvedev said.

“There must be no scapegoating in the investigation of the shipwreck. Everyone involved must be held responsible so that officials who permit a vessel to go on voyage mind their liabilities,” the president said. “There may be both disciplinary and criminal penalties, and the criminal penalty must be rather serious. Thus, we need a very thorough investigation based on a complex forensic analysis.”

The ship had 208 people aboard, but only 79 of them – 29 women, ten children and 40 men were rescued. Fifteen people are deemed missing.

The MS Bulgaria sank in a storm in the Kuibyshevskoye dam lake, three kilometres away from the shore, on July 10. The ship built in Czechoslovakia in 1955 titled to the right and sank within minutes.

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