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Ferry crew charged with manslaughter

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Investigators baffled

Soldiers heroes of tragedy

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ATHENS, Greece -- The captain and four crew from the ferry which sank in the Aegean Sea claiming at least 66 lives could face the life imprisonment after being charged with manslaughter.

Justice Ministry spokesperson Caterina Anthimou said on Thursday that the five had been charged with multiple counts of manslaughter with intent, inflicting bodily injuries and violating international maritime regulations.

More than 500 passengers were on board the Express Samina when it sank after hitting a clearly marked rocky outcrop off the island of Paros on Tuesday night.

The subsequent inquiry has focused on claims that the ship was on automatic pilot when it ran aground.

Rescue amid fading hope
CNN's Anthee Carassava explains the tragedy

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Witnesses have said that some crew members were watching a soccer match between Greece's Panathinaikos and Germany's Hamburg at the time.

Investigators baffled

Merchant Marine Minister Christos Papoutsis called the sinking "incomprehensible and totally inexplicable."

"How can one not be outraged at a shipwreck that has cost so many lives just a mile and a half from the shore, in an area that any captain sailing in the Aegean is familiar with," he said.

Investigators said they were baffled that the ship could have missed a charted islet with a lighthouse.

Bad weather prevented rescue vessels and helicopters continuing their search overnight but they were out again early on Thursday.

More than 448 survivors were plucked from the sea in an operation assisted by local fishermen and a British naval ship.

Prime Minister Costas Simitis has promised a full investigation into events and the vessel's owner, Minoan Flying Dolphins, part-owned by Minoan Lines, pledged to help.

Soldiers heroes of tragedy

Four navy commanders and 17 army conscripts returning for duty on the island of Naxos have emerged as the heroes of the tragedy.

The ferry Golden Vergina, which was renamed Express Samina  

Accounts of the young men, aged 19 to 25, risking their lives to help young children and the elderly contrast sharply with survivors accusations of negligence and neglect by the crew.

One of the soldiers died while attempting to rescue passengers. "We all did what we could our duty," lieutenant Grigoris Bertakis, 25, told the daily Eleftherotypia.

He described how Georgiadis, a navy commando, had jumped into the dark and stormy Aegean holding a small child. He then swam towards an elderly woman and gave her his lifejacket.

"He kept reassuring the child: don't be scared, I won't let go of you," Bertakis said.

The Defence Ministry said it was considering medals for the men's heroic efforts.

Passengers said there was no public announcement when the ferry ran aground and many had to look for their own lifejackets or jump into the water without them.

Death toll in Greek ferry tragedy rises
September 27, 2000
Ferry survivors tell of terror
September 27, 2000
Greek ferry described as 'grime bucket'
September 27, 2000

Greek Ferries
About Paros

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