Collision with Danube River Cruise Ship Kills Two and Leaves Five Missing

river cruise Budapest
Heidelberg cruising near Budapest in 2012 (Kereszturi Lászlóné photo - CC BY-SA 2.0 DEED)

Published May 19, 2024 1:02 PM by The Maritime Executive


Hungarian police are continuing to scour the Danube near Budapest after a river cruise ship and a small pleasure boat apparently collided overnight. They recovered two bodies from the river and are looking for five people who are reported missing while also interviewing the sole survivor.

The response began shortly before midnight on May 18 when an ambulance was called to a location approximately 30 miles north of Budapest after a man was found with injuries and bleeding on the side of the road. The emergency services determined he had been in a boating accident on the river and began a search for other victims and also the vessels involved in the incident.

Sunday morning they are reporting that the river cruise ship Heidelberg is being detained further along the river at the town of Komarom, nearly 50 miles from Budapest. The cruise ship did not stop after the collision and police are trying to determine if it was aware it had collided with the smaller pleasure boat. Police believe the Heidelberg was involved in the collision after finding scrapes and marks on the bow of the vessel.


Overnight search along the Danube


The body of a male victim was found in the same area as the survivor. Later police found the body of a woman further downriver near a bridge on the outskirts of Budapest.

The Budapest police reported today they are holding one unidentified person. They have initiated a criminal investigation to explore the suspicion of endangering water transportation and negligence in the death of the individuals.


Damage to the bow of the Heidelberg (Pest Emergency Services)


Built in 2004, the Heidelberg has been operating on the river for 20 years. She is 357 feet (109 meters) in length with a capacity for 110 passengers and 35 crew. Reports are indicating the ship is Swiss-owned but it is unclear who is currently operating the river cruises. The ship was originally owned by Deilmann Cruises but had been acquired in 2009 by another German firm Nicko Cruises but that company reports it has not operated the ship since the 2023 season.

Emergency services report a dozen boats are searching the river along with drones and teams working along the river banks. Overnight debris was located in the river and the damaged pleasure boat was found and pulled to shore as part of the investigation.

This section of the Danube is a popular tourist destination with many river cruises as well as commercial shipping and pleasure boats. Five years ago, also in May, Hungary’s worst river disaster also took place on the river when a Viking river cruise ship was attempting to overtake a smaller tourist boat during a heavy rainstorm. Twenty-five Korean tourists were killed in the collision and the captain of the Viking river boat was later found guilty of negligence and sentenced to five years in jail.

Hungarian officials on Monday confirmed that they have interviewed passengers and crew from the river cruise ship. They said the captain is being detained and could be charged with leaving the scene of the accident or possibly worse charges related to improper navigation.


Top photo by Kereszturi Lászlóné - CC BY-SA 2.0 DEED