Ukrainian captain jailed for five-and-a-half years over fatal Budapest tourist boat crash

The Mermaid sank within seconds of the collision in 2019  (AFP via Getty Images)
The Mermaid sank within seconds of the collision in 2019 (AFP via Getty Images)

A Ukrainian captain of a cruise liner has been sentenced to five-and-a-half years in jail over a boat accident in Budapest that killed 28 people in 2019.

On May 29, Yuri Chaplinsky, 68, captain of the Viking Sigyn, crashed into the Mermaid carrying 35 South Korean tourists. The cruise liner hit the smaller boat as they both passed under Budapest’s Margaret Bridge, on the river Danube.

The crash killed 25 South Korean tourists as well as the captain and a crew member of the Mermaid. Seven of the 35 casualties were rescued but one body was never found.

As she delivered the sentence on Tuesday, Judge Leona Nemeth said: “The accused, C. Yuriy is found guilty of.... negligence posing a threat in water transport...and the court sentences him to five years in prison.”

In March 2020, Chaplinsky was charged with one count of gross negligence leading to an accident with mass casualties and failing to provide help.

“He did not sense the Mermaid’s presence, did not radio or send out emergency sound signals," prosecutor Miklos Novaki told the court.

The court acquitted Chaplinsky on the charge of failing to provide help in the moment.

Chaplinsky, who has been in custody since 2019, apologised and said he was “deeply sorry.”

“I cannot escape the memories of this terrible tragedy for a minute, I cannot sleep, and I think this is what I have to live with for the rest of my life,” he told the court.