Skipper and crew charged with multiple murders

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The Independent Online

The Captain and four crew members of the Greek ferry that sank killing at least 66 people were charged yesterday with multiple counts of murder. The investigation focused on reports that the Express Samina, with more than 500 passengers, was on automatic pilot moments before striking a well-charted rocky outcrop on Tuesday night. Survivors said crew members were watching a soccer match when the ship struck, two miles off this Aegean holiday island.

The Captain and four crew members of the Greek ferry that sank killing at least 66 people were charged yesterday with multiple counts of murder. The investigation focused on reports that the Express Samina, with more than 500 passengers, was on automatic pilot moments before striking a well-charted rocky outcrop on Tuesday night. Survivors said crew members were watching a soccer match when the ship struck, two miles off this Aegean holiday island.

Files on five criminal charges have been formally opened against Captain Vassilis Yannakis, his first officer, Anastasios Psychoyos, and three crewmen. These include multiple murder with possible malice, causing serious bodily injuries with possible malice, violating maritime regulations, violating international regula- tions on avoiding an accident, and sinking a ship.

Captain Yannakis, 53, held in isolation under police guard, refused to speak to investigators before he and the accused crew members were suddenly whisked off the island in a coastguard cutter to be charged formally on the nearby island of Syros, regional capital of the Cyclades islands.

The ferry owners, Minoan Flying Dolphins, have turned on Captain Yannakis, with a statement saying all indications point to human error and criminal negligence by some of the crew. Shocked survivors, including some of the 14 Britons on board, told of the lack of safety instructions, brawls over life jackets, and the dismal performance of the panic-stricken crew.

Relatives of the victims arrived in Paros yesterday, and 2,000 islanders gathered for the funeral of two of their own, a father and his five-year-old son, who died in the tragedy. The mother survived. A coastguard official died of a heart attack.

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