Three of the four crew members of the ‘Blue Horizon’ ferry charged with the death of 36-year-old Antonis Karyotis testified on Sunday, September 10, as per Piraeus prosecutor’s office decision on Saturday.
The four detainees include the captain of the ship and the men accused of pushing the passenger off the ship’s boarding ramp shortly before departing for Crete, causing his death at the port of Piraeus earlier this week.
Three of the crew members appeared before the prosecutor to testify, while the fourth – who is in hospital – will testify before a prosecutor from there. Defendants’ lawyers said the testimonies, originally scheduled for Saturday, had to be postponed because new evidence was included in the case files.
The captain of the Blue Horizon issued a statement with the investigator apologizing and declaring his devastation by the sudden death of Antonis, yet maintained that he took all the prescribed actions as soon as he was informed of the incident, informing the Port Department and his crew.
“I declare that I am devastated and even shocked by the sudden death of our young fellow human being and I feel the need to express from the bottom of my heart my sincere condolences to the family of the deceased.
“I declare to you responsibly that I, engaged in the procedure of the ship’s departure, which is complex, am forced to look only at the bow of the ship and coordinate the bridge staff at the same time, trusting that my most experienced staff will do the right thing, according to the internationally accepted knowledge in navigation and based on their training and experience, and the competent supervising Port Authority” the captain said in his statement.
He also added that he gave an order to reduce the speed of the ship, while still unaware of the incident, as he awaited instruction from the Coast Guard.
He wanted to make clear that he instructed his subordinates to set the minimum possible steering speed in the direction of the exit of the port, because otherwise the ship would remain adrift with a visible and specific risk of life of the numerous crew and hundreds of passengers both of the ship and of other vessels in the port of Piraeus, due to the serious possibility of collision either with the breakwater, the moored vessels, or the dock, with a further well-founded and visible risk of crushing the man who, for reasons unknown to him – until that moment – had been found in the sea.
According to his statement, he had suddenly found himself in a manifest state of emergency and a tragic moral dilemma, seized in the meantime by rapidly developing feelings of anguish, anxiety and frustration, and he did what his instinct and experience indicated to him at that moment.
He continued to explain that about 30 minutes after his initial communication with the Vessel Traffic Control Center and the First Port Department, he received an order to stop sailing and await further instructions, which he did immediately by giving the corresponding orders to the bridge staff. About 45 minutes after his initial communication, he received a telephone order from the Central Port Governor of Piraeus to return the ship to port of Piraeus, which he also did immediately.
Piraeus’ prosecutor’s office has also received the results of an internal investigation by the Port Authority of Piraeus, ordered by Shipping and Island Policy Minister, Miltiadis Varvitsiotis, that led to the removal of two high-level officials at the port.
The tragic incident also led to the resignation of Attica Group CEO, Spyros Paschalis, that was accepted on Thursday.