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Fateful Sept. 9 on the Danube: Gru died the same day the "Danube Titanic" sank, killing 126 people

More than a hundred people died when the ferry sank

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Don't be fooled by the peace you feel when you look from Belgrade's Kalemegdan at the mouth of the Sava into the Danube, and the Great War Island. When a storm starts descending from the Srem region, down the Danube, and when it's at its worst, a microburst - the peaceful river becomes a monster, seeking to swallow its victim.

Well-known Serbian rapper Gru died on the Danube yesterday. The wind, the start of a storm that later descended on the city, ominously announced this tragedy. The musician died while kitesurfing, a water sport in which he did not lack experience.

The wind took him by surprise, he had no time to react, his life was taken by storm.

The Danube, they say, doesn't forgive any mistakes. This accident happened on a terrible anniversary - the sinking of the Nis passenger ferry in 1952, which sailed from Belgrade to Zemun, and into a serious storm.

The wind, like some mythical, devilish hand, sank the boat with about 150 people on board in the blink of an eye. There were only about 30 survivors. According to some sources, 126 people died, although the exact number was never officially announced.

There was no time to rescue them. Those who were on deck could only watch the water pour in. The rest relied on luck.

At that time, people would travel from old Belgrade to Zemun by boat. There were also buses, but the bridge was under reconstruction. On that warm September 9, 1952, many rushed to reach their destination to beat the storm, not even suspecting that they were hurling towards death.

Putniški brod Niš, potonuće broda

Photo: The Museum of Science and Technology

There are rarely such storms on the Danube, but they are not unknown to meteorologists. It's the worst kind, a microburst storm. The ferry was overcrowded, and the moment to sail was bad. Yes, the trip could have been delayed - but who would have guessed that an ordinary, summer storm, of which there are dozens every season in Belgrade, would gain so much power - and who could explain to the crowd of people that they were not safe on board.

They left earlier, precisely to avoid more passengers boarding the ferry, and everyone was in a hurry because of the rain.

Three survivors described the drama aboard the "Danube Titanic" in 2012, speaking for the weekly Vreme. They looked at people whose eyes reflected death. People were dying behind their back.

"When I got on board I spoke with a girl and asked her where the Faculty of Forestry in Zemun was. I remember she was from Zemun, she had enrolled to study medicine. I was dragging Miro, we were already in the opening when I heard her voice begging for someone to save her. Miro was on my back, my leg was already in the vent, I couldn't help her. She cried, and down there everyone was linked together, under the water. I saw water flowing over her face, only the curly hair remained above the surface, which suddenly straightened like Indian arrows... I also saw a mother grip a child in her arms as the water submerged them," one of the survivors, Radomir Vasiljevic, said.

Putniški brod Niš, potonuće broda

The ferry Nis was later repaired and renamed to "Senta"; Photo: The Museum of Science and Technology

Vasiljevic remembered that not even five minutes had passed after the ferry set sail when the first wave hit the salon door and opened it. The ship swayed, the passengers started screaming, the catastrophe was becoming more certain with every passing second. Another survivor, Miro Visnjic, was crawling through the vent opening.

"The water was quickly rushing in, already reaching up to the throats of the people who were inside. Subdued cries and the 'last avaz', as they say in Bosnia, were heard," Vasiljevic said.

The whole ferry was under water in three minutes. Captain Ferdinand Nobilo, who tried all he could to save the passengers, was nevertheless sent to prison. Briefly. It was then concluded that the ship sank due to force majeure. Even today, the survivors, those who remember the victims, through flowers into the Danube every year on September 9.

(M.B.)

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