Macedonia Convicts Insurance Rep in Tourist Deaths

July 6, 2011

A Macedonian court has convicted an insurance representative and the skipper of a boat that sank, killing 15 Bulgarian tourists, of negligence and sentenced them to 12 months each in jail.

The court in Ohrid, in southwestern Macedonia, said Tuesday that skipper Sotir Fileski will serve eight months of his sentence as he spent four months in pre-trial detention from September to December 2009. The representative for Lloyds of London, Branko Baic, does not live in Macedonia and was sentenced in absentia.

The sightseeing boat Ilinden sank in Lake Ohrid in September 2009, about 200 meters (yards) from shore. Forty-two people survived.

The court found the two guilty of negligence leading to an accident, and of “serious crimes against people and property during transit.”

Prosecutors said the skipper had failed to follow operating procedure, and that too many passengers were on the vessel on the day it sank.

The Lloyds representative was convicted because he issued a certificate of seaworthiness for the boat even though he was aware of problems, and did not set a limit on the number of passengers.

Lawyers for both men said they would appeal.

The legal representative for the families of the victims, Martin Petrov, said they would seek damages once they received the written verdict.

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