A river cruise ship captain, at the helm of Viking Sigyn on the Danube when it collided with another cruise boat killing 26 people, has been sentenced to five-and-a-half years jail.

But former captain Yuri Chaplinsky, a Ukranian National, is unlikely to serve much more jail time over the collision, as he has been in detention since the incident four years ago.

Meanwhile, a Hungarian judge found Chaplinsky was negligent in the operation of Viking Sigyn which overtook and ran over smaller sightseeing boat Hableany. The two were proceeding at night, under the Margit Bridge, on the Danube in central Budapest.

At the time of the collision, there were 33 tourists and two Hungarian tour guides aboard the sightseeing boat. Twenty-five South Korean tourists and the two tour guides died.

The bodies of several victims were found weeks later, some more than 100 kilometres down the river. Search operations along the Danube extended downstream into neighbouring Serbia and Hungarian. The body of one tourist could not be found.

Chaplinksy was acquitted of counts of failing to render aid, but found guilty for “endangering water transport leading to a deadly mass accident”.

Judge Leona Nemeth said: “The accused, C. Yuriy is found guilty of… negligence posing a threat in water transport… and the court sentences him to five years in prison.”

The now 68-year-old Chaplinsky was distressed in court, saying he was “deeply sorry”.

“I cannot escape the memories of this terrible tragedy for a minute,” he said. “I cannot sleep, and I think this is what I have to live with for the rest of my life.”

Viking collision, 21 missing on the Danube
The Viking collision under the Margit Bridge on the Danube claimed 26 lives.