Three sailors have died and eight others are missing after a Turkish trade ship collided with a passenger ferry and sank in the Adriatic, Albanian port authorities said on Thursday.
Sailing under a Maltese flag and loaded with aluminum, the 3,000-ton Reina 1, whose owner and crew were Turkish, sank immediately after the collision with the car ferry Ankara in international waters, said police spokeswoman Ornela Cako. The crash happened at around 2 a.m. (23:00 GMT) on Thursday some 20 miles (30 kilometers) from the Albanian port of Durres.
One body was taken aboard the ferry, while two others have been spotted but not yet recovered due to rough seas, ports head Edmond Doraci told AP by telephone. Two sailors were rescued.
The Reina 1, loaded with aluminum in the Black Sea Russian port of Novorossiysk, was headed to Bar, Montenegro, with a Turkish crew of 10, according to Ahmed Soytürk (54), one of the survivors, speaking from the Durres hospital.
“It took only two minutes for the ship to go down,” Soytürk said. The two survivors were in good health, according to hospital personnel in Durres. The rest of the crew was missing and officials were increasingly concerned about their lives.
“We have found only life jackets and the ship’s safety boat,” the Albanian coastguard’s deputy commander, Artur Mecollari, told Reuters by phone. “The collision right in the middle of the ship has been fatal. It sunk in nine minutes.”
Albanian officials reported earlier that some Turkish citizens had died in the collision, based on knowledge provided by Atilla, the shipmaster of the Ankara ferry. No injuries were reported on the ferry, which left Durres en route for the Italian port of Bari with 189 passengers and 46 crewmembers. The ferry left the scene with the permission of officials. Police gave no information on the cause of the crash. Meanwhile, a team of experts, including foreign experts, will begin an investigation into the cause of the accident. The Cihan news agency in Tirana reported that Albanian officials recalled the search party in the area, signaling the end of hope for the lives of the missing crewmembers.
“The ship stopped for a moment, then sank in a short time. I saw five crew members on the ship, compressed air came out as we were sinking,” Soytürk said from his hospital bed.
“Everything happened suddenly. I hope our friends survive. About three, four crew members must have got out of the ship. I hope they are found,” he added.
An Albanian coastguard ship as well as port rescue boats, an Italian vessel of the Guardia di Finanza and an Albanian army helicopter were deployed in the rescue mission.
A mew search mission was launched in the afternoon.
Around midday, the Ankara ferry resumed its journey. The incident will be investigated either by Malta or Turkey because it occurred in international waters.
Albanian Transport Minister Sokol Olldashi said neither of the ships had strayed from their approved route.
“We believe the tragedy came as a result of human error, but this is not yet final,” Olldashi told parliament.