A Greek island ferry captain and three of his crew faced homicide charges Wednesday over the death of a tardy passenger who was pushed by crew members into the sea as he tried to force his way onto the departing vessel in the country’s main port of Piraeus.
The incident captured on a video and shared on social media sparked anger across the maritime country. It showed the passenger running onto the Blue Horizon ferry’s loading ramp, which was still down and in place on the quay, as the ship had cast off its moorings and was about to leave. He tried to push past two crew members on the ramp who stopped him and manhandled him onto the quay.
When the man once again stepped onto the ramp, one crew member stopped him and pushed him off as the ferry was departing, with the man vanishing into the growing gap between the vessel and the quay.
The crew then appeared to do nothing to help him, and the ferry continued sailing towards the island of Crete before being ordered back to Piraeus.
The coast guard said the man was recovered unconscious from the harbor waters and later pronounced dead. An autopsy was underway to determine the precise cause of death.
In a social media post, Miltiadis Varvitsiotis, Greece’s minister of maritime affairs, expressed “shock, horror and sorrow” Wednesday at the incident.
“The behavior of the 4 members of the ship’s crew, who are detained, is criminally and morally reprehensible,” he wrote. “It is a gross insult to all sailors of Greek shipping. There is no doubt that the offense is murder.”
He said the man had a ticket and had boarded the ship shortly earlier, dashed out for unclear reasons and then tried to reboard. Varvitsiotis also said he ordered an investigation into how port police responded to the “tragic incident.”
“All the necessary actions are being taken by the Piraeus Port Authority to clarify the case and assign responsibility,” he wrote in a separate social media post.
Attica Group, which owns the Blue Horizon, issued a brief statement saying it was “devastated by the tragic incident” and would cooperate with the authorities.
The ferry’s captain, first mate and two more crew members were due to appear before a Piraeus prosecutor to be formally charged later Wednesday.
Piraeus is Greece’s biggest port and the main gateway for millions of travelers visiting the country’s Aegean Sea islands and Crete every year.