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07 September 2023

Greek island ferry captain charged over death of passenger pushed into sea

07 September 2023

A Greek prosecutor brought criminal charges on Wednesday against an island ferry captain and three of his crew, over the death of a passenger who was pushed into the sea by a crew member as he tried to board the departing vessel in Greece’s main port of Piraeus.

One crew member was charged with homicide with possible intent, and the other two with complicity, while the captain was charged with severe breaches of shipping regulations, state-run ERT television reported.

Greece’s minister for merchant marine, Miltiadis Varvitsiotis, expressed “shock, horror and sorrow” on Wednesday at the incident, and identified the man as Andonis Kargiotis, 36.

The incident on Tuesday, captured on video and shared on social media, sparked anger across the country.

It showed the passenger running on to the Blue Horizon ferry’s loading ramp, which was still down and in place on the quay, as the ship had cast off its moorings and was about to leave.

He tried to push past two crew members on the ramp, who stopped him and manhandled him on to the quay.

Yesterday's shameful incident is not indicative of the kind of country we want

When the man once again stepped on to the ramp, one crew member stopped him and pushed him off as the ferry was departing.

He vanished into the growing gap between the vessel and the quay, as the water was violently churned by the ship’s powerful screws.

The crew appeared to do nothing to help him and the ferry continued sailing towards the island of Crete before being ordered back to Piraeus.

In another video, a crew member was heard making an announcement to passengers saying the ferry’s departure was delayed “by an incident … for which the ship bears no responsibility”.

The coast guard said the man was recovered unconscious from the harbour waters and later pronounced dead.

A post mortem examination determined drowning as the cause of death.

In a social media post on Wednesday, prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis deplored what he called “a combination of irresponsible behaviour and cynicism, contempt and indifference” that led to the man’s death.

“Yesterday’s shameful incident is not indicative of the kind of country we want,” he added.

Mr Varvitsiotis condemned the crew members for their “illegal acts” and their failure to follow “the basic principle that Greek seamen have honoured for centuries” which is to rescue people at sea and “not to throw them into it, particularly in such circumstances”, the minister added in a statement.

He said Mr Kargiotis had a ticket and had boarded the ship earlier, dashed out for unclear reasons and then tried to reboard.

Mr Varvitsiotis also said he ordered an investigation into how port police responded to the incident.

Attica Group, which owns the Blue Horizon, initially issued a brief statement saying it was “devastated by the tragic incident” and would co-operate with the authorities.

In a longer statement several hours later it expressed sorrow for Mr Kargiotis’ death and pledged an investigation into the “unthinkable” incident.

The ferry’s captain, first mate and two more crew members appeared before a Piraeus prosecutor to be formally charged on Wednesday.

Piraeus is Greece’s biggest port and the main gateway for millions of travellers visiting the country’s Aegean Sea islands and Crete every year.

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