Key find in shipwreck

Hopes of discovering what happened in the final hours before the cruise ship Sea Diamond sank last week off Santorini were raised yesterday when investigators announced they had located the vessel’s data recorder. The Merchant Marine Ministry said the ‘black box’ had been found by the robot submarine being used to inspect the shipwreck. The data recorder, which contains all the ship’s communications and details of its movements, was found at a depth of 85 meters yesterday morning and investigators were trying last night to recover the box using a submersible with robotic arms. The local coast guard has issued orders for the box to be recovered only by mechanical means so there can be no accusations that the data recorder has been tampered with before being given to the Naxos prosecutor who is handling the case. Investigators hope the data that has been recorded will clear up confusion about why the Sea Diamond hit a well-marked reef, whether the sinking of the vessel could have been prevented and who decided the location to which the ship was pulled before eventually sinking. Sources said yesterday that the prosecutor would also request permission to have access to the mobile phone records of the Sea Diamond’s captain and representatives of Louis Cruise Lines, which owns the ship. The question as to whether the ship could have been saved could prove crucial in the compensation claim. It has been suggested that if the coast guard or other Greek authorities gave the order for it to be allowed to sink far from the port, then Louis Cruise Lines or its insurers may seek compensation from the Greek state. PASOK placed blame squarely on the shoulders of Merchant Marine Minister Manolis Kefaloyiannis. «He should explain why he took decisions that led to the sinking of an ecological time bomb in the heart of the Aegean,» said PASOK spokesman Petros Efthymiou. «If he did not take the decisions himself then there is a question of ignorance of the law and dereliction of duty.» Investigators have not been able to find the bodies of Frenchman Jean-Christophe Allain and his daughter, Maud, who have been missing, feared drowned, since the ship sank.

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