Another Ship Captain Arrested

Tuesday, January 30, 2001
Ukrainian prosecutors arrested the captain of a ship which sank en route from Istanbul to Ukraine's Crimean peninsula and charged him with breaking transport safety laws. The Pamyat Mercuria (Memory of Mercury) sank during a storm on Friday, killing 14 people. Rescuers plucked 32 survivors from lifeboats and rafts in the Black Sea on Sunday and Monday, after days spent floating in the cold waters. Ships and aircraft were still searching the sea off the southern tip of the peninsula on Tuesday for five people still missing. "The captain of the ship Leonid Ponomarenko is currently in custody," Volodymyr Rebrov, Crimea's deputy public prosecutor, told reporters. If found guilty Ponomarenko could face up to 15 years in prison. The Emergencies Ministry said on Monday the 790-ton ship, carrying mostly shuttle traders with Turkish goods to Ukraine, had broken safety rules by taking a direct route across the sea rather than following the shore. Rebrov said initial findings suggested the Pamyat Mercuria sank due to overloading. It had been carrying a crew of 25 and 26 passengers with their cargo of spices and packages. Rebrov said the ship's radio had not been functioning and no distress signal had been received. The ship's third mate, Vitaly Bondar, told Reuters on Monday that the crew had sent an emergency message in the 10 minutes during which it sank. "The captain is fully responsible for the safety of the ship and he should have checked the equipment, including the communications," Rebrov said. - (Reuters)
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