Bulgarian Lawyer Demands Restart of Macedonia Killer Boat Trial

Society | August 15, 2011, Monday // 19:34|  views

On September 5, 2009, the Macedonian tour boat “Ilinden” sank into the waters of Lake Ohrid, killing 15 Bulgarian tourists on board. Photo by BGNES

The relatives of the 15 Bulgarians who drowned in Macedonia's Ohrid Lake on the Ilinden boat in 2009 have appealed the verdicts issued by the Macedonian court, their lawyer announced.

According to lawyer Vladimir Vladimirov, the sentences issued by the court in Ohrid over the September 2009 incident are inadequate, and the appellate court in Macedonia's Bitola needs to restart the trial or to interpret the evidence in a different way.

On July 5, 2011, exactly 22 months after the Ohrid Lake tragedy, the court in Ohrid sentenced Macedonian Sotir Filevski, captain of the Ilinden ship, and Croatian Branko Baic, representative of the German company Lloyd, which issued the necessary certificate ensuring Ilinden can be used to transport tourists, to one year behind bars. The Ohrid Court resumed the case in February after it obtained official rights to try in Baic's absence.

The accident with the Ilinden boat was caused by a torn steel rope, according to the conclusions of engineering experts.The steel rope in the left side of the outdated ship Ilinden ripped shortly after the more than 50 Bulgarian tourists boarded it, which led the vessel to overturn.

The ensuing panic led 12 tourists to go to the right part of the overcrowded ship, which accelerated its sinking, the engineering experts say. The ship was allowed to take up to 43 passengers on board.

The Bulgarian organizer of the ill-fated trip to Ohrid a year ago, Boryana Georgieva, has already been sentenced for carrying out business activities in violation of the Tourism Act. She was sentenced to pay a fine of BGN 4 500, and was banned from commercial activity for 2 years.

The Ilinden vessel was produced in 1924 in Regensburg, Germany, as a military boat later refashioned into a tourist ship. Its last technical check had been carried out by Lloyd in May 2009.

Speaking in Sofia on Monday, the lawyer of the Bulgarian relatives of the victims stated that the Macedonian prosecution has also appealed the verdicts, as cited by BNT.

Vladimirov said he saw a number of controversies and inconsistencies in the trial and the rulings of the court in Ohrid. He deems it unfathomable that the ship captain and the foreign certifier of the vessel have received equal sentences.

The families of the drowned tourists will received EUR 4 500 for each fatality from the insurance company. Regardless of the that, however, in September, they are going to demand additional compensations from the Macedonian Transport Ministry, the head of the navigation office of the Ohrid Lake and the two defendants. A separate claim will be launched against German company Lloyd for certifying the Ilinden ship as safe.

Vladimirov believes that the ship captain Sotir Filevski was well aware how many Bulgarian tourists boarded the vessel, and that their number was higher than what was allowed. The lawyer is further convinced that the inspections of the Ilinden that Croatian national Banko Baic carried out in 2007, 2008, and 2009 could not have been real because each inspection took only a day, while it should have technically lasted longer.

Another major issue the Bulgarian attorney sees with the Ilinden trial is the function of two additional panoramic decks that were added to the Ilinden ship, and which were presumably unsafe.

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Tags: Bulgarian, Macedonian, Sotir Filevski, Branko Baic, ship, Ilinden, ochrid, Ohrid Lake, Ohrid, Vladimir Vladimirov, lawyers, Bitola


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