BUDAPEST (Reuters) – Officials from Hungary and South Korea held a minute’s silence and threw white flowers onto the waters of the Danube on Friday, marking the first anniversary of a boat accident which killed 25 South Korean tourists and two Hungarian crew.
All 27 victims were from the Mermaid, a small tourist boat which sank in just half a minute after it was hit by a much larger cruise liner under a bridge in Budapest in torrential rain on May 29, 2019.
Panorama Deck, the shipping company that owned the Mermaid, held a small ceremony on the river near the site of the accident, lowering a wreath and flowers into the river and blasting a ship horn in memory of those who died.
“May 29th will always be a day of mourning for Hungarian shipping, said Mihaly Toth, spokesperson for Panomara Deck. Behind him a black flag flew fluttered at half mast.
Budapest Mayor Gergely Karacsony was joined by Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto and South Korean Ambassador Kyoo Sik Choe for the ceremony on the embankment.
“For those families who had a piece broken off their hearts … it perhaps feels as if this all happened just yesterday,” Karacsony said. “We share their pain.”
The foreign minister and South Korean ambassador also gave speeches, before the three officials bowed their heads to observe a minute’s silence.
Near the Margaret Bridge, where the accident occurred, mourners left flowers and candles at a makeshift memorial. A sign said: “We love you Korea.”
“No such accident had occurred in 75 years until in 2019. Everyone was shocked that such a dramatic event could happen in what is a well regulated form of transport,” Toth said.
The trial of the captain of the cruise liner, the Viking Sigyn owned by Swiss-based Viking Cruises, began in Budapest in March.
Prosecutors have charged Yuri Chaplinsky, a Ukrainian national, with one count of gross negligence leading to an accident with mass casualties. They also charged him with failing to provide assistance to those aboard the Mermaid.
He denies any wrongdoing.
(Reporting by Krisztina Than and Anita Komuves; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)