ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece’s shipping minister resigned Monday over the death of a man who was pushed off a ferry ramp by a crew member after arriving late.
A Greek prosecutor brought criminal charges against the captain of the island ferry and three crew members over the encounter in the port of Piraeus, near Athens, that resulted in the Sept. 5 drowning of Andonis Kargiotis, 36. One crew member faces a charge of homicide with possible intent.
Amateur video posted online showed the passenger running onto the Blue Horizon ferry’s loading ramp as the ship had cast off its moorings and was about to leave for the island of Crete. He tried to push past two crew members and then was pushed off the ramp when he tried again.
The footage showed the man disappearing in water churned up by the ferry leaving the dock as crew members stepped away. The ship was eventually ordered to return but the man was found unresponsive. He was later determined to have drowned by a medical examiner.
“No one can imagine that Greek sailors, violating the age-old rules for the protection of human life at sea, pushed and abandoned an unfortunate young man,” Minister of Maritime Affairs and Insular Policy Miltiadis Varvitsiotis wrote in an online post after submitting his resignation.
Political opponents had accused Varvitsiotis, 54, of initially downplaying the ferry incident. He became maritime minister after Greece’s conservative government won a landslide reelection victory in June.
Varvitsiotis apologized last week over remarks made in a private television interview in which he expressed sympathy for the indicted crew members. “There are those who grieve for the man so unfairly lost and also those who grieve for the people who went to earn their wage, a day’s pay, who now find themselves accused of murder,” he said in the interview.
Christos Stylianides, a former Greek Cabinet member in charge of disaster response, was named as his replacement Monday.
Despite its convincing election victory three months ago, the Greek government has found itself on the defensive over its handling of major wildfires and ongoing massive floods this summer.