16 April, 2007
The Voyage Data Recorder (black box) of the sunken cruise ship Sea Diamond was successfully recovered by a professional diver on Saturday afternoon from the ship's bridge, from an approximate depth of 85 meters, and will be turned over to the Naxos prosecutor.
The cruise ship sank into the deep waters of the scenic Caldera -- an underwater depression created by a massive volcanic eruption 3,500 years ago -- just off the popular Aegean holiday island of Santorini last week after it struck a reef.
The 'black box' was located by a deep-sea robot craft on Friday on the bridge of the sunken cruise ship, but the robot was unable to retrieve the data recorder due to difficulties posed by the formation of the sea bed and the wreck's condition, and a professional diver was called in after more than four failed attempts by the robot.
The black box's contents -- a recording of all data particularly during the ship's collision with a charted reef -- will be examined by prosecutors with the assistance of an expert and representatives of the Cyprus-based ship-owner and its insurance companies.
Two passengers out of the roughly 1,500 people on board -- a French man and his daughter -- went missing after the boat sank and are still unaccounted for.
Experts said data on the recorder will shed ample light on the causes of the accident and will be turned over the investigating authorities as evidence.
The 'black box' - actually painted a bright orange so that it can be easily located - will have recorded everything from the time of the impact, including the towing and eventual sinking of the ship.
Efforts to recover the data recorder were chiefly conducted with the two robot craft supplied by the Greek Centre for Marine Research, which are equipped with electronic arms.
Meanwhile, the Naxos public prosecutor in charge of the investigation into the shipwreck has asked to be given access to the records for mobile phones owned by the skipper of the 'Sea Diamond' and company representatives that spoke with him around the time of the accident.
In a related development, International Maritime Organization (IMO) Secretary-General Efthimios Mitropoulos congratulated the merchant marine ministry on its handling of the "Sea Diamond" maritime accident, in a letter sent to Minister Manolis Kefaloyiannis on Friday.
According to a ministry announcement, Mitropoulos praises the ministry and noted that the rescue of so many passengers and crew confirms the high efficiency of the ministry's search-and-rescue services, as well as the support provided by local seafarers.
Source: Athens News Agency