Nine people died early yesterday when an overcrowded party boat crashed into a docked barge on the Moscow river and sank. The accident comes three weeks after the sinking of a cruise ship prompted President Dmitry Medvedev to demand that all passenger transport in the country should be inspected.
The Lastochka, which had been hired for a birthday celebration, crashed into the barge at around 1am yesterday in south-west Moscow. The small boat was dragged underneath the barge.
Seven passengers survived, six of them rescued by the crew of the barge, while another managed to swim to safety. The survivors sat swaddled in blankets on the river bank while boats and divers searched the water for the missing. Many of those on board the boat were reported to have been Turkish citizens. By lunchtime, the bodies of all nine victims had been recovered.
Russian officials suggested that Gennady Zinger, the owner and captain of the boat, may have been to blame for the crash. They said that Mr Zinger had been fined three times in the past for violating safety regulations, including for carrying too many passengers. The boat was licensed to carry 12 passengers; at the time of the crash it was carrying 16. There were reports that a 17th passenger had been on board, but was dropped off on a riverbank shortly before the crash after becoming drunk and rowdy.
In summer, the Moscow river, which runs through the centre of the Russian capital, is packed with pleasure boats. Tourist ships ply the waters during the day, while in the evening party boats take to the water, blasting out disco music as they travel along the river.