Captain, crew arrested

Associated Press

PAROS, Greece – Greek authorities on Wednesday arrested the captain and four crew members of a ferry that struck a rocky outcrop marked by a light beacon that could be seen for seven miles. At least 66 people were killed, and at least 473 rescued.

Among those rescued were two American women, both from Seattle.

Some survivors said crew members were watching a soccer match on television Tuesday night when the ship, holding more than 500 people, went aground in a gale in the Aegean Sea just two miles from shore.

Greece’s lead prosecutor said he would seek indictments for the crew on murder charges.

Survivors described a scene of panic and chaos as passengers tried to slip off the Express Samina into the swelling seas.

Nine people are still officially listed as missing, but that number could be considerably higher since tickets can be bought on the ship and are not issued to children under age 6.

The ship left Athens’ port of Piraeus at 5 p.m. Tuesday and headed for Paros, the first of six stops that would eventually bring it to the tiny Lipsis islands near the Turkish coast.

About 10 p.m., the 345-foot, 4,407-ton ferry rammed into the Portes islet, a large rocky outcrop two miles from shore that is marked on maritime charts and has a navigation light, Sirigos said.

Christine Shannon, 30, an artist and teacher from Seattle, said she was on the main deck at the time of the crash.

“I saw it hit,” Shannon said. “It was well above the top deck. … It was like the movie ‘Titanic.’ “

A small flotilla of fishing boats rushed to the scene, followed by dozens of other vessels and British navy helicopters. They rescued dozens of people, but gale-force winds hampered their efforts.

Results of a preliminary investigation indicated the captain, Vassilis Yannakis, was not on his bridge. Coast guard investigators were examining passenger reports that most of the crew was watching a European Champions League soccer match when the ferry crashed.

After the crash, according to some survivors, people panicked and the crew ignored the custom of evacuating women and children first.

“Nobody told us to do anything,” said Heidi Hart, a 26-year-old accountant from Seattle.

“They were just yelling and pushing,” Hart said. “We were handing out life vests. People were starting to jump out of the boat without vests. I thought we were going to die the whole time. We got on a boat and they let it down. There was a hole in it.”

Copyright ©2000 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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