Ship captain charged with failure to render assistance to MS Bulgaria.

19/7 Tass 345

MOSCOW, July 19 (Itar-Tass) —— The captain of a ship, which passed by the sinking MS Bulgaria, has been questioned as a suspect and released on his own recognizance, Russian Prosecutor General’s Office spokesman Vladimir Markin told Itar-Tass.

“Alexander Yegorov, the Dunaisky 66 captain, has been brought to Kazan from Volgograd by the detective’s order. He was questioned as a suspect in the case of the failure to render assistance to the Bulgaria in distress. He is now released on his own recognizance,” Markin said.

Yegorov is not permitted to leave Kazan for the period of the investigation.

“The same will be done to Arbat captain Yuri Tuchin soon,” Markin said.

“The shipwreck site will be video-filmed before the MS Bulgaria is lifted,” he said. Detectives will examine the sunken ship after it is taken to a dry dock. “Leading experts will be assisting the examination,” Markin said, “There are other investigative procedures aimed to find the details of the accident.”

Criminal charges were brought against the captains of the Arbat and Dunaisky 66 cargo ships on July 12 for not giving assistance to passengers of the wrecked MS Bulgaria, Investigation Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin said.

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.

Meanwhile, eleven people, including seven hurt in the MS Bulgaria wreck and four family members of the wreck victims, are staying at hospital, the Tatarstan health ministry said on Tuesday.

“Eleven patients are at hospital in Kazan, Chelny, Laishevo and Bavly. These are people hurt in the shipwreck and family members of the dead. All of them are receiving medical aid,” the ministry said.

In all, 26 people were hospitalized after the Bulgaria accident.

The republican education and science ministry said that Tatarstan had taken custody of eight children orphaned in the MS Bulgaria wreck.

“Eight children were orphaned in the Bulgaria tragedy, and they needed custody,” minister Albert Gilmautdinov said. “One child survived the shipwreck that killed his parents. Seven children were home when their parents died in the Bulgaria sinking. We take custody of all these children.”

So far, the children have temporary custodians. Seven of them are in custody of their grandmothers, and one is in custody of an aunt, the minister said.

“This is a temporary measure taken to provide allowances to the children. The families will decide on permanent custody later on,” the minister said.

The republican authorities will provide further assistance to these children. “Some may need admission to a kindergarten and others may need admission to a school. A teenager wants to study at a mechanics vocational school. We will keep an eye of all of these children,” the minister said.

In addition, Tatarstan authorities pay 300,000 rubles to each family, which has lost members in the MS Bulgaria wreck.

Up to 100,000 rubles are paid to the injured depending on the degree of injuries. Some 10,000 rubles are paid in compensation for property lost in the shipwreck.

The families of people who died in the MS Bulgaria wreck will get one million rubles each in compensation from the federal budget, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said last week.

“The families of the dead will receive one million rubles; people with heavy and medium injuries will be paid 400,000 rubles, while people with light injuries will have 200,000 rubles,” he said.

“It is a big tragedy and the death toll is high, many children are dead. I once again express profound condolences on behalf of the Russian government,” he said.

The search for 15 people missing in the shipwreck continues along 24 kilometers of the coastline, the Tatarstan emergency situations department told Itar-Tass.

In all, 895 people and 206 machines, including 15 aircraft and 56 boats, are engaged in the search.

The works are focused on preparations for lifting the wrecked ship. The positioning of metal sheets with the length of 15 metes and the thickness of 1.5 centimeters under the ship started in the morning ahead of the lifting operation. Before the ship is raised to the surface, 43 divers will pressurize the Bulgaria right side and examine the compartments the divers have not examined earlier.

The operative staff does not set any deadlines in the wrecked ship’s lifting. “This is a complex operation,” the staff said. Bad weather is complicating the effort.

The MS Bulgaria sank in a storm in the Kuibyshevskoye dam lake, three kilometers 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 at a Sunday meeting of the governmental commission investigating the shipwreck.

“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 on Friday.

“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.”

“We need not only to expose the causes of the shipwreck, which are more or less known, but also to prevent similar accidents in the future. This is the duty of the government and law enforcers,” he said.

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