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 Bulgaria Mourns Macedonian Killer Boat Victims

Bulgaria Mourns Macedonian Killer Boat Victims

9/7/2009 10:13:20 AM

Bulgaria has declared Monday an official day of mourning in honour of the fifteen people who died on Saturday when an ageing tourist boat sank within seconds into Macedonia's Lake Ohrid, a popular attraction in the Balkans.

Another 40, all Bulgarians, survived the accident.

The group of Bulgarians aboard the ship Ilinden were on their way to the Saint Naum monastery.

All 15 bodies have been identified, but under Macedonian legislation, they need to be also recognized by relatives in order to be sent to Bulgaria. Relatives of the victims will arrive in Ohrid on Monday. The government plane that brought the survivors back, has been made available for the trip.

Macedonia and Bulgaria government officials have vowed to exchange all information pertaining to the case.

The skipper of the sightseeing boat was detained on Sunday on suspicion of causing the deaths of the fifteen Bulgarian tourists.

Sotir Filevski, 23, was ordered held for 30 days pending an investigation. If prosecutors file a formal charge of crimes against life and property, Filevski could face four to 10 years in prison.

Meanwhile the Bulgarian Prosecutor's Office launched a separate probe and initiated legal proceedings against an unknown perpetrator pending the investigation's results.

The Ilinden sank rapidly in just six meters (20 feet) of water, about 200 meters (650 feet) from the shore on Saturday in the worst boat accident ever to happen on Ohrid Lake, on Macedonia's western border with Albania.

Unofficial information lists the cause of the tragedy as a broken bearing in the ship's wheel.

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