Faulty porthole helps family, toddler survive cruise ship tragedy

A faulty cabin porthole helped the Minnekaherov couple, their 14-month-old child and relatives survive the fatal sinking of the Bulgaria riverboat on Sunday.

Gulnaz Minnekhaerova, one of the passengers of the ill-fated vessel that sunk in the Volga River where 79 out of 205 passengers on board survived, was traveling with her young daughter Dina, husband Ilshat, as well as Ilshat’s brother and wife.

The cabin where they were trapped when the ship began sinking was located on the starboard side which was severely listing.

“Perhaps our good luck was that the window in our cabin was faulty. When it began raining the guys tried to close it, but their attempts failed,” Minnekhaerova said.

“If the water had not come through the window, the cabin would have been flooded with water from the corridor and we would have drowned,” she added.

The water gushing through the open window pushed everyone out of the cabin into the corridor.

“No alarm sounded in regard to the sinking. When the vessel started tilting we became frightened…When we opened the cabin door we saw that people were in a panic,” Minnekhaerova continued.

“By accident I saw people from the opposite cabin grabbing life vests from the upper shelf of the cabin’s wardrobe. I immediately opened our wardrobe and started throwing vests around,” she recalled.

The woman said she managed to get out of the sinking ship through the broken window. “My husband and my child remained in the corridor. For a moment he [Ilshat] set the baby on the deck, opened the window, grabbed the child’s leg and swam out.”

Fortunately, the Minnekaherovs met at the life raft floating nearby, none of the family members was seriously injured.

“Our child is fine. I was afraid the she may have swallowed some fuel, but a pediatrician said that her lungs are clear.”

The Bulgaria, built in 1955 and renovated 30 years ago, had no license for carrying passengers and had a number of safety faults, including a broken engine and a list to starboard as well as being grossly overloaded.

The operators of the Bulgaria had no permission to provide tour services, Oleg Moseev, spokesman for the Russian Federal Agency for Tourism, Rosturism, said.

Tuesday was declared a nationwide day of mourning and memorial services were held in all Russian Orthodox churches. Russian TV and radio stations are not broadcasting entertainment programs and advertising.

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