Pilot of cruise ship that smashed into Venice canal tour boat describes horror crash9 min read

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The pilot of an Italian cruise ship which crashed into a river boat on Sunday has described the horror moment he battled to regain control of the vessel during the accident.

The unidentified pilot of the MSC Opera told emergency officials the ship experienced a loss of controls and that he had ‘activated all procedures’ to stop it before it crashed on the Giudecca Canal in Venice.

In an audio clip revealed in the Italian media, the pilot said anchors were dropped and that tugboats connected to the ship’s bow and stern took maneuvers to stop the ship.   

‘Here on the bridge, we don’t understand what happened,’ the pilot is heard saying.    

Five people were injured in the collision, all of whom had been on board the small pleasure cruiser River Countess at about 8.30am Sunday. 

Four female tourists, an American, a New Zealander and two Australians, were among those injured in the horror crash on Sunday. The passengers are seen toppling from the the river boat during the crash after it collided with the enormous cruise ship

Four female tourists, an American, a New Zealander and two Australians, were among those injured in the horror crash on Sunday. The passengers are seen toppling from the the river boat during the crash after it collided with the enormous cruise ship

MSC Cruises, said the ship, the MSC Opera, was about to dock at a passenger terminal when it had a mechanical problem and hit the River Countess (pictured)

MSC Cruises, said the ship, the MSC Opera, was about to dock at a passenger terminal when it had a mechanical problem and hit the River Countess (pictured)

The damaged harbor quay after the MSC Opera smashed into the concrete structure leaving it and the smaller boat severely damaged

The damaged harbor quay after the MSC Opera smashed into the concrete structure leaving it and the smaller boat severely damaged

Horrifying images showed the hulking cruise ship sounding its horn as petrified tourists attempted leap from the river boat which was smashed in the head-on collision – leaving it severely damaged. 

Medical authorities say four female tourists – an American, a New Zealander and two Australians between the ages of 67 and 72 – were injured falling or trying to run away when the cruise ship rammed into the tourist boat. 

MSC Cruises said the 2,679-passengers onboard the 177-ft high and 902-ft long long liner, which dwarfed the Venice skyline, were approaching the terminal when the ship hit the dock after a technical problem.  

The collision comes days after seven people were killed and 21 remain missing after the Mermaid, a sightseeing boat, capsized on the River Danube in Budapest, Hungary.  

In another video, terrified passengers can be heard shouting ‘hold on’ as the luxury cruise boat crashes into the river boat and then the pier. 

The cruise ship’s owner, MSC Cruises, said the ship, the MSC Opera, was about to dock at a passenger terminal when it had a mechanical problem.

The ship then appeared to lose control after a steel cable that tied it to a tugboat snapped.     

Two towboats guiding the cruise ship into Venice tried to stop the massive cruise ship, but they were unable to prevent it from ramming into the small and powerless river boat. 

President of a towboat association in Venice, Davide Calderan, told the Italian news agency ANSA: ‘The two towboats tried to stop the giant and then a tow cable broke, cut by the collision with the river boat.’

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Mr Calderan said the cruise ship’s engine was locked when the captain called for help.

Following the accident, Italian firefighters were deployed to the scene as shocked spectators watched on in horror from the dock.  

People rush to assist people off the large cruise

Spectators run away from the scene of the collision in panic

Panicked tourists were filmed running away in shock as the huge cruise liner sounded its booming horn to warn them to get clear 

Shocking images show the cruise ship ploughing into the much smaller river boat on Sunday after a technical issue

Shocking images show the cruise ship ploughing into the much smaller river boat on Sunday after a technical issue 

The damaged boat, River Countess, pictured with a twisted bow after it was hit in the head-on collision on Sunday morning

The damaged boat, River Countess, pictured with a twisted bow after it was hit in the head-on collision on Sunday morning

Passers-by watch on in horror after the cruise boat crashes into the small boat. Two towboats guiding the cruise ship had initially tried to  stop the massive cruise ship, but they were unable to prevent it from ramming into the small boat

Passers-by watch on in horror after the cruise boat crashes into the small boat. Two towboats guiding the cruise ship had initially tried to  stop the massive cruise ship, but they were unable to prevent it from ramming into the small boat

The luxury MSC Opera cruise liner stands by a tourist boat following the shocking collision in Venice yesterday morning

The luxury MSC Opera cruise liner stands by a tourist boat following the shocking collision in Venice yesterday morning

Elisabetta Pasqualin was watering plants on her terrace when she heard warning sirens and stepped out to see the crash.

‘There was this huge ship in a diagonal position in the Giudecca Canal, with a tugboat near which seemed like it couldn’t do anything,’ she said.

She described the ship ‘advancing slowly but inevitably towards the dock.’ 

She said: ‘The bow of the ship crashed hard into the bank with its massive weight crushing a big piece of it. Sirens were wailing loudly; it was a very dramatic scene.’

The international cruise ship line with its headquarters in Geneva, says its ship, the MSC Opera, experienced a mechanical problem as it was docking at a passenger terminal and says it is cooperating with authorities to figure out what happened. 

The incident has now reignited calls to ban cruise ships in Venice which have been a source of contention in the over-extended tourist city.

Danilo Toninelli, Italy’s transport minister, said ‘today’s accident in the port of Venice proves that cruise ships shouldn’t be allowed to pass down the Giudecca anymore.’

He added: ‘After many years of inertia, we are finally close to a solution to protect both the lagoon and tourism.’

The MSC Opera was built in 2004 and can carry over 2,675 passengers in 1,071 cabins. 

According to its sailing schedule, the cruise ship left Venice on May 26 and travelled to Kotor, Montenegro, and Mykonos, Santorini and Corfu in Greece before returning on Sunday to the popular tourist destination of Venice.   

The incident took place on one of Venice's main canals, the Giudecca Canal, during the early hours of the morning

The incident took place on one of Venice’s main canals, the Giudecca Canal, during the early hours of the morning 

Smaller emergency boats attempt to help clear passengers from the wrecked pleasure cruiser after the hulking ship crashed into it

Smaller emergency boats attempt to help clear passengers from the wrecked pleasure cruiser after the hulking ship crashed into it 

The incident reignited calls to ban cruise ships in Venice which have been a source of contention in the over-extended tourist city

The incident reignited calls to ban cruise ships in Venice which have been a source of contention in the over-extended tourist city

Spectators take pictures after the tourist river boat is struck by a towering cruise liner in Venice, Italy, on Sunday

Spectators take pictures after the tourist river boat is struck by a towering cruise liner in Venice, Italy, on Sunday

The luxury cruise heads towards the pier as horrified passengers look on

The large boat crashes into the dock and a river boat following a technical problem

Terrified passengers shout ‘hold on’ as the  MSC Opera crashes into a dock and a tourist river boat following a technical issue

Shortly after the crash, members of the city’s ‘No Big Ships’ Committee were seen standing next to the MSC Opera cruise ship and staging a protest against large cruise boats that sail close to the shore in the area.    

Campaigners of the ‘No Grandi Navi’ movement have long since argued that cruise ships in the area damage the iconic city’s ecosystem and disturb the ancient city’s buildings.

The crash comes days after seven people were killed and 21 remain missing after the Mermaid, a sightseeing boat which had 35 people onboard, including 33 South Korean tourists, capsized in just seven seconds on the River Danube in Budapest on May 29.   

Following the tragedy in Hungary, officials said there was a slim chance of locating the missing people after the sightseeing boat, sank almost instantly upon impact with a cruise ship called the Viking Sigyn outside the Hungarian Parliament building. 

Seven South Korean tourists onboard the Mermaid died and 21 are still missing, including a six-year-old girl, with searches still ongoing in the Hungarian capital. 

Officials confirmed that 30 South Korean tourists, three South Korean tour guides and two Hungarian crew were onboard the sightseeing boat.

The captain of the Viking Sigyn, identified only as Yuriy C, 64, was taken in by police following the Danube tragedy, after authorities suspected him of ‘endangering water transport leading to a deadly mass accident’. 

19 South Koreans are still among the 21 missing.

In an audio clip revealed in the Italian media, the pilot said anchors were dropped and that tugboats connected to the ship's bow and stern took maneuvers to stop the ship

In an audio clip revealed in the Italian media, the pilot said anchors were dropped and that tugboats connected to the ship’s bow and stern took maneuvers to stop the ship 

Angered members of Venice's 'No Big Ships' Committee take to the streets and stage a protest by the MSC Opera cruise ship

Angered members of Venice’s ‘No Big Ships’ Committee take to the streets and stage a protest by the MSC Opera cruise ship

Campaigners stand near the dock following the shocking crash this morning and protest against big ships being used in the area

Campaigners stand near the dock following the shocking crash this morning and protest against big ships being used in the area

A worker is seen operating his boat after a tourist river boat and a cruise liner collide near a Venice dock on Sunday morning

A worker is seen operating his boat after a tourist river boat and a cruise liner collide near a Venice dock on Sunday morning 

A 31-year-old survivor, who only gave her surname as Jung, told a South Korean news agency: ‘The current was so fast and people were floating away but the rescue team did not come.’ 

Following the collision, CCTV footage showing the larger boat colliding with the 89ft Mermaid, which had 35 people on board, began to emerge on social media.

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During the video, The Viking appeared to hit the Mermaid from behind, before the smaller Soviet-era vessel spun sideways on impact. 

Following the tragedy Pal Gyorfi, a spokesman for the Hungarian national ambulance service, told the M1 state broadcaster: ‘I wouldn’t say there is no hope, rather that there is a minimal chance (of finding survivors).

‘This is not just because of the water temperature, but (also) the strong currents in the river, the vapour above the water surface, as well as the clothes worn by the people who fell in.’

Earlier this week seven tourists were reported dead and 21 remain missing after the Mermaid, a sightseeing boat, capsized in just seven seconds in the River Danube in Budapest, Hungary

Earlier this week seven tourists were reported dead and 21 remain missing after the Mermaid, a sightseeing boat, capsized in just seven seconds in the River Danube in Budapest, Hungary

A woman looks out onto the Danube as the search continues for the missing people of the boar crash earlier this week

A woman looks out onto the Danube as the search continues for the missing people of the boar crash earlier this week 

A man jogs passed as people lay flower tributes on the bank of the Danube river where a sightseeing boat capsized a few days ago

A man jogs passed as people lay flower tributes on the bank of the Danube river where a sightseeing boat capsized a few days ago

A man lights a candle near the riverbank after a sightseeing boat carrying South Korean tourists crashed by a large river cruise ship and sank in River Danube

A man lights a candle near the riverbank after a sightseeing boat carrying South Korean tourists crashed by a large river cruise ship and sank in River Danube

Two women sit on the banks of the River Danube river in Budapest, where a sightseeing vessel capsized on Wednesday

Two women sit on the banks of the River Danube river in Budapest, where a sightseeing vessel capsized on Wednesday

How boat disasters have hit Europe in the past

The Danube crash is the latest major river boating accident in Europe. Here is a list of previous disasters.

Deadliest

On July 10, 2011, 122 people drowned when a tourist ship broke up during a storm on Russia’s mighty Volga river, east of Moscow. Built in 1955 and overcrowded, the ship took only a few minutes to sink. Some 80 passengers were saved.

Previous case on the Danube

On October 23, 1996, eight people died after their barge, which was flying a Slovak flag, hit a flood barrier and sank on the Danube, in Austria’s capital Vienna.

Elsewhere in Europe

On June 11, 2018 in Russia eleven people were killed in an accident on the Volga when a catamaran collided with a barge. Five people were rescued.

On July 31, 2011 in Russia a pleasure boat sank after colliding with a barge on the Moskva river. Two people died and six disappeared.

On September 15, 2005 in Russia at least eight people disappeared after their overcrowded boat capsized on the powerful river Yenisei near the port of Dudinka in Russia.

On June 3, 2000 in central France an overcrowded dinghy capsized on the river Yonne near Sens, leaving three people dead. The dinghy, which had a capacity of 12, was carrying 36 people.

On May 29, 2000 in Portugal six crew members on a Norwegian freighter disappeared when the vessel collided with a Korean cargo ship on the Tagus river, west of Lisbon.