Report on ferry disaster points to open doors

On the eve of the first anniversary of Greece’s worst ferry disaster in over three decades, shipping experts investigating the sinking of the Express Samina off the island of Paros delivered the findings of their probe yesterday to an investigating judge. This came hours after opposition New Democracy berated the government for having failed to speed up the investigation. Although the results were not officially made public, the 10-month probe is understood to have established that the 34-year-old ferry would have sunk much more slowly, or might have been able to limp into harbor had the crew closed the watertight doors to seal off flooded compartments. Carrying over 530 passengers and crew, the ship, owned by Minoan Flying Dolphins – which was recently renamed Hellenic Flying Dolphins – struck one of the well-known, brightly-lit Portes rocks three miles outside Paroikia, the port of Paros, at 10.05 p.m. in choppy seas. It sank just under half an hour later with the loss of 80 lives. It is most likely that it would not have sunk at all, or would have sunk long enough afterward to allow everyone to have been saved had the doors been shut, Thodoris Loukakis, one of the five experts who handled the probe, told journalists yesterday after handing the 500-page report to investigating judge Nikos Karadimitriou. The report is understood to note that if even two doors had been closed to seal off flooded compartments, valuable time would have been gained to allow the ship’s evacuation. The report is also believed to blame Captain Vassilios Yiannakis for failing to issue the command to abandon ship. Charges should be pressed next month, and are expected to involve shipping officials as well as safety inspectors. A memorial service will be held for the Samina victims at 9.30 this morning on Paros. The ship’s captain and first mate have been held in prison for the past 12 months, pending their trial for manslaughter with possible intent and malice aforethought. The report apparently blames the vessel’s two senior officers for the open doors, which can be closed manually or electrically. Captain Yiannakis is understood to have told investigators that he pressed the button to seal all the ship’s 11 compartments, but it did not work. The collision caused a three-meter-long and one-meter-high rupture on the starboard side.

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