Greek Minister: Human Error Caused Cruise Ship Sinking

Greece's merchant marine minister said Tuesday that he believed human error was involved in the fatal collision and sinking of a cruise ship just off a Greek resort island last week.

The minister was speaking after he gave Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis an update on the search operation in Santorini harbor, where the cruise liner Sea Diamond hit rocks and foundered early Friday.

Nearly 1,600 people were rescued during a three-hour operation late Thursday, but the bodies of two French tourists are believed still trapped in the wreckage.

Merchant Marine Minister Manolis Kefaloyiannis said: "The mechanism of the rescue worked out perfectly. Our attention is now focused on the question of the environment and, of course, to find the missing two."

"There was human error" involved in the accident, he said.

The missing pair — Frenchman Jean-Christophe Allain, 45, and his 16-year-old daughter Maud — are thought to have been trapped in their flooded cabin. Allain's wife narrowly escaped.

Naval divers and a robot submarine on Tuesday were searching the wreckage for the missing pair along with the vessel's voice data recorder, which could provide clues to the accident.

The submarine will photograph the position of the vessel — which lies an estimated 70-130 yards below the surface — and determine its stability before divers are allowed to enter the wreck.

Meanwhile workers struggled to prevent more oil from spilling from the stricken vessel and harming the coastline of the island, one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Greek archipelago.

Over the weekend the ship's captain had told investigators he was caught unawares by a sea current that swept his vessel onto the volcanic rocks just minutes before docking — even though his vessel carried state-of-the-art positioning equipment and the rocks were well marked. Six crew, including the captain and chief mate, have been charged with negligence.