9 killed when boat hits barge on Moscow River

Russian emergency workers raise a pleasure boat that sank in Moscow, Russia, Sunday, July 31, 2011. Russian officials say an overloaded motor boat sank in the Moscow River after crashing into a docked barge in the pre-dawn darkness and 9 people were killed.  (AP Photo/Mikhail Metzel)
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Russian emergency workers raise a pleasure boat that sank in Moscow, Russia, Sunday, July 31, 2011. Russian officials say an overloaded motor boat sank in the Moscow River after crashing into a docked barge in the pre-dawn darkness and 9 people were killed. (AP Photo/Mikhail Metzel)

MOSCOW (AP) — An overloaded motor boat crashed into a docked barge on the Moscow River in pre-dawn darkness Sunday, killing nine of the 16 people on board, officials said. The other seven passengers swam to safety or were rescued as the boat quickly sank.

Vladimir Markin, the spokesman for the main investigative agency, laid the blame on the owner and captain of the boat, who was among those killed.

Markin said the owner, Gennady Zinger, had been found in violation of regulations three times in the past, including for exceeding the boat's maximum capacity of 12. The boat was carrying 16 people when it crashed.

He said investigators have questioned the survivors and also four crew members of the Oka-5 barge who had helped to rescue them.

The survivors included a man identifying himself as a Turkish citizen and another who said he works at the U.S. Embassy, Markin said. The citizenship of the embassy employee was not known.

Crews used a floating crane to lift the 40-foot (12-meter) black boat, which had sunk to the bottom of the river and was lying beneath the barge. Hundreds of people crowded along the river bank to watch the operation, which took place across the water from the Luzhniki soccer stadium.

Emergencies Ministry officials said one body still had not been recovered.

The Moscow River, which runs past the Kremlin as it makes a large loop through the Russian capital, is plied by a steady stream of freight barges and tour boats on summer days. Private motor boats have become more popular in recent years, although their numbers remain small.

Sunday's accident occurred three weeks after more than 120 people died when a double-decker boat capsized and sank on the Volga River. Investigators said the 55-year-old vessel, the Bulgaria, was overloaded when it sank in heavy wind and rain. They have not yet determined what caused it to capsize. Survivors reported the boat was listing to starboard and having engine trouble even as it left the dock.

President Dmitry Medvedev then ordered the inspection of all passenger vessels in the country.

After Sunday's crash, the Moscow city government was considering imposing stricter controls on all vessels entering the central section of the river, Moscow River Shipping Co. general director Konstantin Anisimov said on NTV television. He said private owners of boats have started to run commercial businesses carrying passengers in violation of transport regulations and regulatory agencies have done little to stop them.