Greek cruise ship captain blames sea currents for sinking

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The Independent Online

The captain of the sunken Sea Diamond cruise ship blamed currents off a Greek island for last week's accident, state-run television reported Sunday.

Two French tourists have been missing since Thursday, when the ship struck rocks and eventually sank off the island of Santorini. All the other people on board - 1,154 passengers and 391 crew, according to operator Louis Cruise Lines - were rescued.

State-run NET television quoted from what it said were excerpts of the captain's deposition to a public prosecutor on the island of Naxos, blaming currents off the volcanic island for the accident.

"I felt the ship, which had been on a normal course, slip to the right because of sea currents," NET quoted him as saying. "I gave the order for a full turn left. But there was not enough time for the ship to respond."

The captain was indicted along with five other crew members on blanket charges of causing a shipwreck through negligence, breaching international shipping safety regulations and polluting the environment, the Cyclades islands public prosecution office said. All have been released pending further testimony.

Most of the ship's passengers were American, but also included groups from Canada, Britain, Spain, France, Australia and the Dominican Republic.

Most rescued passengers returned home Friday and Saturday. Some tourists described the ship's evacuation as poorly organized.

"It was very crowded. Everyone had a panicked look on their face," Florida firefighter William Christopher, who accompanied a school trip, told the Miami Herald newspaper after his return to the United States.

He said of the rescue: "It was haphazard. It was makeshift ... It wasn't an organized plan."

The missing French passengers were identified as Frenchman Jean-Christophe Allain, 45, and his 16-year-old daughter, Maud.

The missing man's wife told authorities she had narrowly escaped from the family's flooding cabin on a lower deck, which was located near the area where the rocks tore a hole in the side of the ship.

Efforts to search the vessel for them were set to resume Tuesday, with the help of a remote controlled undersea probe which will be used to examine the vessel more than 300 feet (91 meters) underwater.

The ship's operator is part of the Cyprus-based Louis Group of tourism businesses, which has been involved in two other accidents in the past year.

The cruise ship Calypso caught fire in the English Channel in May and was towed to safety, with all 708 passengers unharmed.

In October, two British children were found dead at a Louis-run hotel on the Greek island of Corfu after inhaling carbon monoxide, believed to have come from a malfunctioning boiler.

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