Captain of sunken cruise ship charged

Sunday, April 8, 2007

The island's location

The captain and five of his crew on Sea Diamond have been charged following the cruise ship's collision with a known and well-charted reef. The charges laid against the captain were "causing a shipwreck through negligence". Additional charges of breaching shipping safety regulations and pollution were laid against the captain. All six accused were released shortly after questioning and their full testimony will be taken in the following weeks.

At the time of the crash the ship had been a few kilometers away from the dock under the spectacular cliffs that make Santorini one of Greece's top tourist destinations. At the time of the collision the Sea Diamond was carrying more than 1,500 people, 1,154 passengers and 391 crew members.

The former Birka Princess in 2005, now called M/S Sea Diamond

The damaged vessel was quickly evacuated in a 3 hour operation, but it failed to find Jean-Christophe Allain, 45, and his 16 year old daughter, Maud, both from the Doué-la-Fontaine state in western France.

A 3 day search and rescue has failed to find them with officials stating that a robot submarine would investigate the wreck, which is lying under 330 feet (100 meters) of water, within the following weeks. The panicked evacuation soon brought to the fore memories of the September 2000 Express Samina ferry shipwreck of the island of Paros, killing 80 people.

The spokesman for the Cyprus based operator, Louis Cruise lines, read out a statement saying that the company was working closely with Greek investigators.

We would like to express our deep sorrow over the accident, and our thoughts are with the two missing people and their family. The Sea Diamond was fully up to date with its inspections. Whoever is responsible for this will be held accountable in the strictest way. Greece is a major tourism destination, and incidents like this must not be allowed to occur. ... Authorities handled the rescue very well.

The Sea Diamond, a 21 year old vessel sank at the end of a four day cruise, which included visits to Rhodes, Patios, Crete and Mykonos islands. Officials at the Greek Tourism board went into damage control to lessen the impact on its industry which accounts for 18 percent of its GDP (Gross Domestic Product).