Rescuers Retrieve Bodies of Two Sailors Killed in Collision Off Haifa

Rescuers retrieved Friday the bodies of two sailors declared missing off the coast of the northern port of Haifa after an Israeli freighter collided late Thursday with a Cypriot cruise ship, emergency services said.

The two sailors, from Indonesia and Ukraine, had been aboard the cargo ship, the Shelly, which sank following the collision. The 11 sailors who remained on the vessel jumped into the water, and were rescued within 15 minutes of the incident.

The two bodies were found inside the sunken ship, where the crewmen had apparently been trapped when the Shelly was accidentally rammed by the Cypriot passenger ship, the Salamis Glory, the Israel Police said in an official announcement.

The discovery followed an intensive search in which six Israeli navy boats, several aircraft and divers participated.

The two dead men were the ship's first mate and its engineer, according to police.

None of the nearly 700 passengers and crew aboard the Cypriot ship, navigated by Captain Elias, were injured in the incident. The 11 evacuated sailors refused to be taken to hospital. As a result of the collision, an oil spill spread along the coast, and the Health Ministry issued a warning to the public against bathing at Zvulun beach.

The incident occurred close to 10 P.M., when the passenger ship exited Haifa Port. Several minutes later, it struck the cargo vessel, which was anchored about 2.5 kilometers offshore. Soon after, the cargo ship began listing and sank.

The cause of the incident is not yet certain, although it is believed that the Cypriot passenger ship lost control of its steering. The cargo vessel had a crew of mostly Slovaks and Ukrainians. The Salamis Glory collected most of the sinking ship's crew, and the rest were evacuated by helicopter. The passenger liner returned to port in Haifa on Friday with light damage visible on its hull.

Police will be questioning its crew members and investigating what led to the accident, Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.

George Michalides, spokesman of cruise company Salamis Lines, told Reuters that passengers from the Cypriot vessel were to have been flown to Cyprus on Friday.