thisislondon.co.uk | 2010.10.22
A German freighter ploughed into a small Dutch passenger ferry nearAmsterdam today, turning it over and knocking the skipper into the water.
Dutch police said he was missing, feared dead. “There’s one person missing, possibly more,” said spokesman Frans Zuiderhoek on Dutch television.
“At this moment we don’t know how many people were on board the ferry.” He said neither the skipper nor anyone else had been found, several hours after the collision occurred at 7am local time. It was still dark. Divers were searching the water for the skipper’s body. No other people have been reported missing.
“We know that the first hour is crucial to rescue someone from the water, so of course we continue looking, but the chances that he is still alive are small, if he (is) in the water,” said another police spokesman, Carine Porgengen. “On the surface there are no victims to be seen.”
Firemen and divers looked for survivors and a helicopter using thermal imaging tried to pick up warm spots in the water.
The ferry shuttles pedestrians and often their bicycles across the Amsterdam-Rijnkanaal, a broad, heavily used, 45-mile canal, which connects Amsterdam to the river Rhine, a major European shipping artery.
The collision took place near the town of Nieuwer Ter Aa, about six miles south of Amsterdam. The ferry was floating upside down near the side of the canal, with its brown-red hull facing upward and a lifebelt drifted in the water nearby. Traffic on the canal has been halted.
Mr Zuiderhoek said maritime police have opened an investigation into the cause of the accident. They were interviewing the captain of the freighter, the Duisburg Ruhrort, which is moored near the scene. He tested negative for alcohol.
The ferry’s owner, Swetsodv, said on its Twitter feed that the boat was “out of commission”.
The company could not be reached for comment.