Yacht Crew Expected to Deny Arson Charges Over Fire on Greek Island

June 26, 2024

Yachting Journal

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The crew members of a yacht accused of starting a forest fire last week on the Greek island of Hydra are expected to deny arson charges when they appear before a judge on Wednesday, a legal source said.

Wildfires are common in the Mediterranean country but they have become more frequent and devastating due to hotter, drier and windier weather, which scientists link to climate change. Greece has in recent years beefed up penalties for arson.

The fire, which is believed to have been sparked by fireworks, broke out on Friday night, devouring nearly 300,000 square metres of the island's only pine forest before fire fighters tamed the flames early on Saturday.

The 13 Greek crew members of the yacht, which had been moored 350 metres away from the shore when the fire erupted, were arrested on Sunday at a marina near Athens and charged with starting the blaze.

They have all denied any wrongdoing and are expected to reiterate their stance before an investigating magistrate at the court of Piraeus on Wednesday, the legal source said, speaking on condition of anonymity. The judge will then decide whether to free them or detain them pending trial.

The legal source said there was not enough evidence to link them with the case and that the captain of the vessel had been the first person to alert authorities about the fire, while other yachts were also in the wider area.

Witnesses testified that they saw smoke and flames after hearing 15-20 loud sounds, similar to firework explosions, at 2230 pm (1930 GMT) on Friday night, according to court documents seen by Reuters.

One of them said they had seen a rubber boat sailing towards the yacht as the fire was spreading fast. They later saw a fire extinguisher on the yacht's stern.

(Reuters - Reporting by Renee Maltezou; Additional reporting Yannis Souliotis; Editing by Gareth Jones)