ATHENS, Greece –
A Greek island ferry captain and three of his crew faced homicide charges Wednesday over the death of a tardy passenger who was pushed by crew members into the sea as he tried to force his way onto the departing vessel in the country’s main port of Piraeus.
The incident captured on a video and shared on social media sparked anger across the maritime country. It showed the passenger running onto the Blue Horizon ferry’s loading ramp, which was still down and in place on the quay, as the ship had cast off its moorings and was about to leave. He tried to push past two crew members on the ramp who stopped him and manhandled him onto the quay.
When the man once again stepped onto the ramp, one crew member stopped him and pushed him off as the ferry was departing, with the man vanishing into the growing gap between the vessel and the quay.
The crew then appeared to do nothing to help him, and the ferry continued sailing towards the island of Crete before being ordered back to Piraeus.
The coast guard said the man was recovered unconscious from the harbour waters and later pronounced dead. An autopsy was underway to determine the precise cause of death.
Greece’s minister for merchant marine, Miltiadis Varvitsiotis, expressed “shock, horror and sorrow” Wednesday at the incident.
Varvitsiotis told privately-owned Parapolitika radio that the behaviour of the detained crew members was “a vile insult to Greek seamen.”
He said the man had a ticket and had boarded the ship shortly earlier, dashed out for unclear reasons and then tried to reboard. Varvitsiotis also said he ordered an investigation into how port police responded to the incident.
Attica Group, which owns the Blue Horizon, issued a brief statement saying it was “devastated by the tragic incident” and would cooperate with the authorities.
The ferry’s captain, first mate and two more crew members were due to appear before a Piraeus prosecutor to be formally charged later Wednesday.
Piraeus is Greece’s biggest port, and the main gateway for millions of travellers visiting the country’s Aegean Sea islands and Crete every year.