Midnight boat tour turns to tragedy in Moscow

At least five people have drowned in western Moscow when a pleasure boat collided with a moored barge and sank. Seventeen passengers were on board, most of them American or Turkish citizens.

­A private pleasure boat, “the Lastochka” (Russian for swallow), has sunk after a collision with a barge on the Moscow River early on Sunday. So far, five people are reported dead, including the captain, and a further five are missing. The bodies have been recovered and taken ashore. Russia’s Emergencies Ministry and the police are continuing the search and rescue operation on the Moscow River.

Seven people have been rescued or else managed to swim to safety. They are in a state of shock, an Emergencies Ministry official told Interfax news agency. Two of the rescued have been taken to hospital.

Divers have already recovered three bodies and are continuing to examine the boat, says Interfax. A total of 72 rescuers and divers are involved in the operation.

The 12-meter-long Lastochka pleasure boat lies jammed under the barge, three meters below the surface, where the visibility is about 0.5 meters. The operation to lift the boat will start as soon as divers make sure nobody is left inside the sunken vessel.

There were foreign citizens among the 17 believed to have been on board at the time of the collision.

According to the local press the boat had been chartered for a corporate party held by an international men’s magazine.

An investigation is underway to determine what caused the collision. At the moment there is speculation that human error on the part of the boat’s captain was the cause of the tragedy.

“The navigator did not manage to avoid the collision, and the boat sank within a minute,” law enforcement authorities said, as cited by Itar-Tass.

This tragedy comes just weeks after the cruise ship Bulgaria sank on the Volga, killing 122 people.

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