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Case of Lake Ohrid boat tragedy to be heard on October 26

25. October 2010. | 08:18

Source: BTA

The case of the Lake Ohrid boat tragedy will be heard in Ohrid, Southwestern FYRMacedonia, on October 26, BTA has learned from the parties to the case. The Bulgarians involved in the trial have hired Bulgarian and
Macedonian lawyers.

The case of the Lake Ohrid boat tragedy will be heard in Ohrid, Southwestern FYRMacedonia, on October 26, BTA has learned from the parties to the case. The Bulgarians involved in the trial have hired Bulgarian and
Macedonian lawyers.

In that case on September 5, 2009, the boat Ilinden sunk in the lake, drowning 15 of a total of nearly 50 Bulgarian tourists.

The defendants are the boat master, Sotir Filevski, and Branko Baic, an official of the Lloyd's company which certified the boat as fit for service.

Some of the Bulgarian claimants are uncertain whether their Bulgarian expert in international maritime law will be admitted to the proceedings by the Macedonian court. Therefore, they have also hired a local representative.

Some of the Bulgarians are expected to lodge civil claims on October 26. According to unofficial information, the claims will exceed 1 million leva (511,000 euro). The Bulgarians will ask to be constituted as private accusers as well. If the court does not allow the civil claims to be heard along with the criminal case, they will have to initiate a separate civil case.

Another part of the survivors of the tragedy, who have hired a law firm in Macedonia, are not yet planning to lodge a claim against the boat master, but only against Lloyd's. If the company's official Baic does not turn up at the trial, the proceedings will be adjourned. According to unofficial information from BTA sources, the Ohrid court has not yet received a document showing that Baic has been properly summoned.

Filevski, the boat master, is expected to appear in court on October 26. He has hired one of FYRMacedonia's leading lawyers, Savo Kocarev.

Kocarev told BTA by telephone that Lloyd's will have no difficulty paying compensation to the families of those who drowned in the incident, even if it has to be 100,000 euro per family. "This is nothing to them," the lawyer said. It is the company which should pay, because its official Baic hardly has the money to do it, he said. According to Kocarev, the defence is expected to argue that the sinking of the ship was not caused by overloading. Moreover, the lake shipping administration in Ohrid also has its share of responsibility for failing to check how many people boarded the vessel, the lawyer said.

Investigators say that the boat sank due to overloading. The master allowed 56 people on board whereas the vessel could safely hold up to 43 passengers. An examination also found that a rope connecting the parts of the boat's steering system was broken.

More than a year after the incident, the Bulgarian prosecutors have not received the autopsy documents about the victims. If Macedonia provides all documents requested by the Bulgarians, they will conduct expert examinations in order to decide whetherto hold a parallel trial in Bulgaria, and how.


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