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Video shows passengers' pleas to search for missing students rejected
Feng Ke'er, captain of a yacht that sailed on Jiangsu's Taihu Lake, was intoxicated when his vessel, carrying eight people, hit a cable connecting two cargo ships on Wednesday, killing four passengers, local officials said on Sunday.
The government of Suzhou city said tests showed Feng had 54 milligrams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood in his system at the time.
Under China's Road Traffic Safety Law, which took effect on May 1, 2011, those who operate a motor vehicle and whose alcohol level exceeds 20 mg per 100 ml of blood are classified as drunk.
A drunken driver's license will be revoked, with a five-year driving ban.
Drivers with more than 80 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood are classified as heavily drunk. Such behavior, regardless of whether it causes serious traffic accidents, is classified as an intentional crime.
However, maritime regulations don't define "drunken sailing", though it is banned.
Local media quoted an anonymous witness, who is also in Taihu's yacht business, as claiming that Feng "drunk 100 grams of spirit" before departure.
"Feng always drinks," said the witness.
In the incident on Wednesday, Feng's yacht hit a cable that was being used by one cargo ship to pull another, and his boat was driven between the two vehicles.
The cable severed the yacht's roof, which fell onto passengers onboard.
A tour guide, who was also a student at the East China University of Political Science and Law, and a freshman at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, were confirmed dead on the day.
Also, two students sitting in the back row were thrown into the lake, and their bodies were dragged from the water the following day.
None of the passengers on the yacht was wearing a life jacket. Feng was detained by police on Friday, according to the local government.
A video clip showing that Feng rejected students' plea to head back and search for the missing passengers right after the accident has been shown by local media and on the country's major video portals, leading some to wonder if Feng should face charges of intentional injury.
"We're missing one student, will you please go back and find him?" cried an unidentified girl in the video who was the victim's classmate. The captain rejected her request.
Liu Zhengdong, head of the Shanghai Lawyers' Association, said that the potential danger involved in sailing accidents is much bigger than in road accidents.
Apart from investigating the incident and determining the responsibility of the captain, Liu said Taihu Lake's operation and management team, and the relevant water inspection department, should be called to account.
Gu Xiaorong, director of the Institute of Law at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, said it would be very difficult for China to establish water traffic regulations that are as detailed as the road laws.
"How would you carry it out in practice? For example, a river is much wider than a road and you can't simply set up a roadblock to allow traffic police to crack down on boatmen who drink," said Gu.