Budapest boat wreck survivors remember hanging on to calls for help in dark, rainy waters

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While standing at the lifeboat together, Jeong and Yoon said they shed tears when they saw the heads of other people move up and down the rapid river.

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SEOUL, Korea, Republic of – Survivors of a sinking South Korean excursion boat in Budapest say they barely managed to hang onto a drifting lifeboat while staring in horror at the others around them struggle in the dark and rainy waters, crying for help.

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Only seven out of 35 people, including 33 South Koreans, were rescued. Seven other people have been confirmed dead and 21 are missing.

Survivors said their small tourist boat almost finished its hour-long night tour of the Hungarian capital on Wednesday and was almost at a standstill when a larger cruise ship struck it under a bridge near of the parliament building by the river, a landmark of the city. They said about 20 people were on the bridge taking pictures or preparing to disembark. The others were in the cabin.

“I saw this big cruise ship approaching us but never imagined it would crash our ship,” said a 31-year-old South Korean man nicknamed Jeong. She was quoted by the South Korean news agency Yonhap.

Jeong said she and others on the bridge were thrown into the cold waters of the Danube by the impact of the collision. Police said it took just seven seconds for the boat to tip over and sink.

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She said she saw a lifeboat drifting near her and managed to grab it. She threw a rope at another South Korean tourist named Yoon, who was close to her.

A woman cries on the banks of the Danube on May 30, 2019 in Budapest a few hours after the sinking of the tourist boat
A woman cries on the banks of the Danube on May 30, 2019 in Budapest a few hours after the sinking of the tourist boat “Siren” after colliding with a larger ship in the pouring rain. – Hungarian police have opened a criminal investigation into one of the country’s worst boat crashes, which left at least seven dead and 21 missing. Photo by Attila KISBENEDEK / AFP

“Our boat overturned in an instant and started to sink,” Yoon, 32, told Yonhap. “Everyone on deck fell into the water and I think those who stayed in the cabin on the first floor probably couldn’t get out of the ship quickly.”

While standing at the lifeboat together, Jeong and Yoon said they shed tears when they saw the heads of other people rise and fall in the fast moving river.

“People dove into the river in the dark and shouted ‘Help me! As he waded through the waters. But I couldn’t do anything for them, ”Jeong said, crying.

Another survivor named Ahn, 60, said a crew member of another sightseeing boat sailing nearby reached out to him after he was thrown into the river. But it lost grip and was washed away before grabbing a drifting plastic object.

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Yoon said rescuers could only retrieve those who were in or clinging to the lifeboats, or holding the hands of people outstretched from other nearby boats. Yoon said he saw the cruise ship that crashed into his boat continue to navigate without taking any rescue action after the collision.

Police have opened a criminal investigation and arrested and questioned the Ukrainian captain of the cruise ship on Thursday evening. The 64-year-old is suspected of endangering water transport resulting in a fatal mass accident.

Flowers are seen placed next to the Margaret Bridge in tribute to the victims of a <a class=boat carrying South Korean tourists that capsized on the Danube in Budapest.” class=”embedded-image__image lazyload” src=”https://smartcdn.prod.postmedia.digital/nationalpost/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/flowers.jpg?quality=90&strip=all&w=288″ srcset=”https://smartcdn.prod.postmedia.digital/nationalpost/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/flowers.jpg?quality=90&strip=all&w=288, https://smartcdn.prod.postmedia.digital/nationalpost/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/flowers.jpg?quality=90&strip=all&w=576 2x” height=”750″ loading=”lazy” width=”1000″/>
Flowers are seen placed next to the Margaret Bridge in tribute to the victims of a boat carrying South Korean tourists that capsized on the Danube in Budapest. Photo from THE CANADIAN PRESS

Hungarian state television reported that the seven people rescued have been released from the hospital, except for one who is being treated for broken ribs.

Thirty South Korean tourists were aboard the sightseeing boat with two guides and a photographer, all of South Korean nationality. Two Hungarian crew members on the boat are among the 21 missing.

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South Koreans, mostly family groups, were on a package tour in Europe. Yoon was traveling with his mother, aunt and uncle. After being rescued, she called her father in Seoul to tell him that she and her mother survived. The fate of his two other relatives is unknown.

Yoon’s father, Yoon Seung-yong, told Seoul-based Hankyoreh newspaper that his daughter felt guilty because she organized the trip. “She cried and said, ‘Daddy, what should I do? I think it happened because of me.

It is still unclear exactly what caused the collision. A preliminary investigation showed that none of the South Koreans was wearing a life jacket at the time of the incident. Some experts in South Korea have also raised questions about why the boat trip was allowed to take place in heavy rain with strong currents and compromised visibility.

“There is always a possibility of accidents when you decide to sail in these conditions,” said Yun Jong-hwui, professor at Korea Maritime and Ocean University.

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