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MOSCOW, August 17 (Itar-Tass) - The death toll in the steamship-barge collision on the River Irtysh in Siberia’s Omsk Region has risen to six, the Russian Investigative Committee said on Saturday, August 17.
The accident occurred at 13:20 local time on the 1,843rd kilometre of the River Irtysh ten kilometres from Omsk. Four people died at the scene of the tragedy and 49 were taken to hospitals in Omsk, the Emergencies Ministry told ITAR-TASS earlier in the day.
The West-Siberian Investigative Department did not confirm reports that the collision might have happened because the man on the steamship’s wheel was drunk.
“The crew has not undergone medical examination yet,” the Department’s representative told ITAR-TASS, adding that it was too early to speak about such a possibility.
However several hours later the press service of the Russian Investigative Committee said that alcohol had been found in the steamship captain’s blood. “The medical tests revealed one pro-mille of alcohol in his blood,” the press service said.
The captain has been detained and may be put into custody.
“There were 62 people and four crewmembers aboard the steamship,” the Investigative Committee said.
The steamship Polessye was sailing from Omsk, carrying, among others, pilgrims who were heading to one of the local convents, which is located 50 km south of Omsk on the Irtysh and frequently visited by Orthodox believers from the whole of Siberia and North Kazakhstan.
Vladimir Korbut, head of the Emergencies Ministry’s branch in Omsk Region, said the accident had happened because of the gross violation of the navigation rules by the steamship’s captain who had been drunk and had been detained by police. The steamship steered into the opposite side of the navigable pass and collided head-on with a barge. “The captains of both vessels have already been questioned. Investigators are now working with witnesses and seizing technical documentation,” Korbut said.
This is not the first such accident on Russian rivers over the past several years.
On July 10, 2011, the passenger ship Bulgaria sank in Tatarstan. Of the 201 people aboard, 122 died, including 28 children. Seventy-nine people were rescued.
On March 12, 2012, two hovercraft making regular passenger trips on the Volga in the Nizhny Novgorod region hit each other tangentially. Each was carrying ten people. Six were injured.
On June 30, 2012, two pleasure boats collided on the Volga near Nizhny Novgorod. One was carrying 29 passengers and the other 40. No one was injured. The craft were damaged but stayed afloat.
On September 3, 2012, a steamship collided with a tugboat in the Rybinskoye water reservoir in the northern Vologda region. None of the 264 people aboard the steamship was injured.