Macedonian ferry captain detained over boat deaths
The captain of the boat which sank in a southern Macedonia lake and caused 15 deaths has been detained in connection with the accident, police said on Sunday, Xinhua reported.
The Macedonian Interior Ministry pressed criminal charges against the 23-year-old Sotir Filevski, who was ordered by a local court to be held for 30 days pending an investigation into the accident.
The Ilinden tour boat, which Filevski owned and captained, sank on Saturday morning about 200 meters off the shore of the Ohrid Lake. There were 57 passengers on board. Of them, 15 drowned, 42 survived.
If prosecutors file a formal charge of crimes against life and property, Filevski could face four to 10 years in prison, the Interior Ministry spokesman Ivo Kotevski said.
Macedonia canceled all public events Sunday to mourn the 15 victims. All flags on Macedonia's public buildings were flown at half-mast. It has been confirmed that all the victims were Bulgarian tourists.
Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski sent a note of condolences to his Bulgarian counterpart Boyko Borissov, expressing his condolences to the victims' families.
"I was deeply shaken by the tragic accident in the Ohrid Lake and the death of the Bulgarian citizens. In these difficult moments of national mourning, I would like to extend my deepest condolences to you and your people on behalf of the Macedonian government," he said in the note.
The accident happened when the tour boat had been traveling from Ohrid, on the lake's eastern shore, to a medieval Eastern Orthodox monastery complex about 30 kilometers south near the Albanian border.
It was reported that the boat, with a 42-person capacity, was built by Germany in the 1930s. It was examined last May and given a license to operate for another year.
Initial investigation shows that a rupture of the cord, that links the rudder with the stern, caused the boat to turn sharply to the right side. The passengers, by inertia, crossed to the other side. The boat leaned, was filled with water, and sank in no time.
However, Macedonia has invited a team of three experts from Croatia, a regional ship-building power, to help investigate the full cause of the accident.
Lake Ohrid, embedded on the border between Macedonia and Albania, is the deepest in the Balkans. It has been a UNESCO world heritage site since 1979.