Bodies recovered wearing life vests on Greek ferry

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The Independent Online

Divers pulled eight more bodies from the shipwreck of the Greek ferry Express Samina yesterday, bringing the death toll to at least 74.

Divers pulled eight more bodies from the shipwreck of the Greek ferry Express Samina yesterday, bringing the death toll to at least 74.

It was also confirmed that Greek prosecutors had filed charges of manslaughter against the captain and three members of the crew.

One of the bodies recovered was found sitting in a life boat. Others were found wearing vests in the corridors of the ship and one was locked in a cabin. There are fears the death toll could rise still further.

The crew members appeared in court on the nearby island of Sycos. Captain Vassilis Yannakis, the second-in-command Tassos Psychoyios, the trainee captain Yannis Patilas and seaman Panayotis Kasdaglis were remanded in custody. A hearing will be held tomorrow, after which charges may be laid.

It is not known why the ferryhit a well-charted islet, causing it to sink near the island of Paros on Tuesday night.

Outside the courtroom, Captain Yannakis told reporters he regretted the loss of life. "As a captain of Greek shipping, I take full responsibility for the victims." Mr Psychoyios said he had been on the bridge when the ferry hit the islet and had done his best to avoid the disaster. He said when he realised the bad weather was bringing the ship dangerously close to the islet, he ordered the seaman holding the wheel to turn it but with no result. "I took the wheel from the seaman's hands and tried to turn all the way right but the stern couldn't get through the waves," he said. "The weather would not allow it. It wasn't engine failure it was bad weather."

He rejected accusations that the evacuation was badly organised. "Whatever could be done, was done with care, with self-sacrifice I could say."

A total of 452 people were rescued from the 525 to 530 believed to have been on board.

The Greek authorities have vowed to severely punish those responsible for the disaster, saying there would be no attempt to cover up negligence to protect big business. The Merchant Marine Minister, Christos Papoutsis, said: "How can one not be outraged at a shipwreck that has cost so many lives just a mile-and-a-half from the shore, in an area any captain sailing in the Aegean is familiar with?"

The owner of the Express Samina, Minoan Flying Dolphins, came under further pressure yesterday after another of its passenger ships, the Express Artemis, ran aground as it approached the island of Naxos, near Paros, late on Thursday night. The captain attributed the grounding to mechanical failure.

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