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In an incredibly tragic incident, a Viking river cruise ship has struck a bridge in southern Germany, killing two crew members.

It appears the retractable wheelhouse, a common feature of European river ships, was not pulled down in time to avoid being crushed by the bridge.

The Viking Freya, which was carrying 230 people, crashed shortly after it cast off from the town of Erlangen at around 1:30 am in the morning

The workers who died were Hungarians – a 49-year-old who was guiding the vessel in place of the captain and a 33-year-old sailor.

The 181 passengers and 47 other crew members on the voyage were unhurt.

Rescue workers escorted everyone off the ship.

Viking Cruises said in a statement: “we are heartbroken, and company executives are on the scene to work closely with local authorities to understand the details of the accident.”

Police are still investigating the accident but a spokesman reportedly said it appeared the retractable wheelhouse was not lowered in time.

Passengers were given a chance to continue their cruise on another vessel from the town of Passau or return home.

The retractable wheelhouse is a feature of all river cruise ships, which have to contend with very low bridges and locks.

Cruise ship called 'Viking Freya' is seen after a collision with a bridge at Main-Donau-Kanal in Erlangen, Germany, September 11, 2016. REUTERS/Michaela Rehle

Cruise ship called ‘Viking Freya’ is seen after a collision with a bridge at Main-Donau-Kanal in Erlangen, Germany, September 11, 2016. REUTERS/Michaela Rehle

Cruise ship called 'Viking Freya' is seen after a collision with a bridge at Main-Donau-Kanal in Erlangen, Germany, September 11, 2016. REUTERS/Michaela Rehle

Cruise ship called ‘Viking Freya’ is seen after a collision with a bridge at Main-Donau-Kanal in Erlangen, Germany, September 11, 2016. REUTERS/Michaela Reel

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