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Guardian angel captain a hero of Volga disaster

The captain of the motorboat Arabella, who saved about 76 passengers and crewmembers of the “Bulgaria” cruiser, has been met with an avalanche of praise from across the country. The young man acted in the face of what he described as real horror.

The personal webpage of Captain Roman Lizalin, 30, is flooded with blessings and gratitude, with many calling him an example of a heroic man.

“I think half the women in our country dream to have a husband like Roman, and the other half is simply already married. Praise to you and your crew. And God bless you,” one lady said.

While hundreds of such comments pour in, Roman himself seems to be bothered by different things. He downplays his heroic halo and points to other people who did their best in the emergency.

“My crew worked amazingly. We launched the lifeboats at once. The crew was searching for survivors among the debris up to the moment the rescuers of the Emergencies Ministry arrived. We did everything we could do,” he told Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper.

What at first seemed to him to be a fishing boat wreck turned out to be a major disaster, to which he and his crew had the professionalism to deal with.

“When we approached the site I saw several rescue rafts among the debris. There was some junk and people – it looked horrible. I was shocked. No horror movie shows anything like that,” he told NTV TV station.

The captain also praised the passengers of the Arabella for how they helped the survivors, and said that no person onboard was left untouched.

“They took their own clothes and gave them to the wounded. Many of the people we dragged out were all covered with motor oil and had bleeding cuts. Tourists also gave their mobile phones so that the victims could get in touch with their relatives,” he recalled.

Roman is also very concerned with the reputation of the captain of the “Dunaisky-66” tow boat, who he feels was unjustly disgraced. The boat is one of two vessels, which left the site of the wreck, and many accused the captains of criminal negligence and absence of compassion.

An official investigation into this is underway, and Transport Minister Igor Levitin even said: “The reasons why they say they couldn’t approach, change the course, etc. – they don’t work in this situation. We’ll take all necessary legal action to deal with those captains very harshly.”

The captain of the Arabella says that in the case of the Dunaisky-66 the decision to leave was his rather than his colleague’s, because he was in charge of the search and rescue operation. Roman overruled his colleague’s attempt to help.

“[The captain of the tow boat] requested me, and in that situation I told him to move away from the wreck because he might have hampered our effort. Also, the boat’s poor maneuverability meant it would take too much time. Their help would probably not be necessary because we picked up everyone pretty fast. She would not have managed to launch her lifeboats by the moment we had done the job,” he told Vesti 24 TV channel.

Lizalin graduated from a river officer academy in 2006. He was promoted to captain three years ago, and received commission to the Arabella last spring.