Macedonia Detains Skipper of Sunken Sightseeing Boat that Killed 15 Bulgarians

Macedonian authorities detained Sunday the captain of a tourist boat that sank in a popular lake, killing 15 Bulgarians, as survivors charged that the vessel lacked life jackets.

A total of 53 Bulgarian tourists and three crew members were on board the pleasure boat Ilinden Saturday, officials said, when it suddenly veered and sank in the waters of Lake Ohrid, the deepest lake in the region and Macedonia's most popular tourist site.

A Macedonian investigating magistrate ordered the boat's captain and owner, Sotir Filevski, 23, held for 30 days pending an investigation into the tragedy, reports AFP.

Macedonian investigators say that overloading of the 85-year-old boat also could have caused the accident. Investigators say the boat was not designed to carry more than 40-45 passengers, but more than 55 people were onboard when it sank.

The sightseeing boat was filled with Bulgarian tourists when it went down suddenly on Lake Ohrid Saturday, killing at least 15 people, including one child. Four other passengers were seriously injured.

The tour boat was about 200 meters from the shore when it went down. Witnesses say local residents rushed out onto the lake with their own boats to help rescue survivors.

Transportation Minister Mile Janakievski said he is submitting his resignation because of the incident, VOA News.

A national day of mourning has been declared on September 7 2009, commemorating the 15 victims of a tragedy in Ohrid Lake on September 5 2009.

September 6 2009 was also declared a day of national mourning in Macedonia. Hours after the incident, Macedonian transport minister Mile Yanakievski filed his resignation over the tragedy as "an act of moral duty". Later, however, the Macedonian cabinet refused to accept it and he remained in post, reports Sofia Echo.

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