Entries in Hungary (7)


Sick Obese Woman Denied Flights Home, Dies Abroad

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The death of a 407-pound woman after being denied boarding on three flights was "preventable," according to an attorney for the woman's husband, who plans to pursue legal action against three airlines.

Vilma Soltesz, 56, died of kidney failure on Oct. 24 in Hungary, where she and her husband, Janos Soltesz, took an annual vacation to a home they owned in their native country, said Soltesz' attorney, Holly Ostrov-Ronai.

Vilma, who had health problems, had been trying to get back to the United States, where she could see her doctors, Ostrov-Ronai said.

The couple flew from New York City to Budapest by way of Amsterdam on KLM Royal Dutch Airlines.  Vilma, who had one leg, got on the flight with the help of an airlift, and used a seatbelt extender when seated, Ostrov-Ronai said, adding that the couple had "no issues at all."

"KLM asked them when they would be flying home so that they could make proper arrangements," Ostrov-Ronai wrote in an email to ABC News.

When the couple went to the airport on Oct. 15 to board a KLM night flight home to New York, they were able to board.  However, Ostrov-Ronai said that the captain asked Vilma to disembark because she could not be secured in her seat due to an issue with a seat back.

"There was simply no legitimate reason in this instance for denying her boarding or forcing her to disembark," Ostrov-Ronai said.  "Their failure to make simple accommodations, that had been made prior, led to Vilma's death.  This is not best efforts in any regard."

In a statement, KLM said "every effort" was made to help Vilma.

The couple waited at the airport for five hours while the airline made calls to find an alternative to accommodate her.

They were advised to drive to Prague, where they could catch a "bigger plane" operated by Delta Airlines.  When they arrived, Ostrov-Ronai said, the couple was told that Delta only had a plastic wheelchair that could not handle Vilma's weight and that there was no sky lift available to get her onto the plane.

Delta spokesman Russel Cason offered the airline's "sincere condolences" for Vilma's passing.

"Despite a determined good-faith effort by Delta in Prague, we were also physically unable to board her on our aircraft on Oct. 16.  For this reason there was never an issue with the use of seat belt extenders," he said.

The couple drove back to their home in Hungary and made another effort, this time through Lufthansa, to get back to the United States.  When they boarded, they were forced to disembark by the captain, Ostrov-Ronai said, because Vilma was unable to fasten her seatbelt properly.

The airline said it worked with local partners, the fire brigade and technical experts to accommodate Vilma, but to no avail.

"After several time-consuming attempts it was decided that for the safety of this passenger and the over 140 fellow passengers, Lufthansa had to deny transportation of the passenger," said a statement issued by the airline.  "In order to avoid further delays which would have resulted in missed connections and severe inconvenience for other customers on board, this decision was unavoidable."

Two days later, Vilma died.

"They passed these people around from airline to airline and treated them with no dignity whatsoever, simply because they didn't want to deal with the situation," Ostrov-Ronai said.

She said Janos plans to pursue a lawsuit against the three airlines that denied his wife passage home, where she desperately needed medical treatment.

"Janos is heartbroken," Ostrov-Ronai said.  "The only thing that keeps him going day to day is that he wants justice for what was done to Vilma and to try to make sure this doesn't happen to anyone else in the future."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Nazi War Criminal Laszlo Csatary Taken Into Custody in Budapest

ABC News(BUDAPEST, Hungary) -- The past may have finally caught up with a 97-year-old Nazi war criminal who was taken into custody Wednesday in Budapest, Hungary.

Laszlo Csatary, who has been convicted in absentia and sentenced to death, was picked up early Wednesday by authorities, Bettina Bagoly, a spokeswoman for the Budapest prosecutor, told ABC News.

The elderly former Nazi was charged with war crimes and will be taken before an investigative judge later on Wednesday.  The judge will determine whether Csatary is to remain in jail. Still, Bagoly said that it was "likely" that he would be placed under house arrest.

In a statement issued on Monday, the prosecution said that they're still investigating allegations against Csatary  because the crimes are complex and were committed long ago and in another country.

"It took place 68 years ago in the region that is under the jurisdiction of another country -- which also raises several investigative and legal problems," the prosecutor's statement said.

Csatary has lived openly under his own name in Budapest in recent years and the Simon Wiesenthal Center alerted authorities earlier this week of his location.  Nevertheless, when police visited his two homes in Budapest earlier this week, Csatary was not there.

According to the Wiesenthal Center, Csatary played a "key role" in the deportation of 300 Jews to Kamyanets-Podilsky in Ukraine where they were killed, and also helped organize the deportation of 15,700 Jews to the concentration camp in Auschwitz, Poland.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


'Sadistic' Nazi War Criminal Laszlo Csatary Lived Openly in Hungary

ABC NewsUPDATE: Laszlo Csatary was taken into custody in Hungary on Wednesday, according to multiple reports.

(BUDAPEST, Hungary) -- One of World War II's most "sadistic" Nazis lived openly in Budapest, Hungary, in recent years, but has apparently slipped into hiding as an international manhunt closed in on him.

Laszlo Csatary, now 97, has been convicted in absentia and sentenced to death for his role in sending nearly 16,000 Jews to their deaths.

"He was particularly sadistic," said Peter Feldmajer, the president of the Jewish community in Hungary.  "He created a camp for torturing the rich so they would confess where they have hidden the money."

Laszlo Karsai, Hungary's top holocaust historian whose grandmother died in Auschwitz, Poland, said Csatary was "very sadistic."

"There are two testimonies of German officers in Kosice who had to stop him from torturing Jewish women.  He made women dig holes in the ground with their bare hands," Karsai told ABC News.

"But what do you do with a 97-year-old man who was very, very sadistic 68 years ago?" Karsai asked.

To his neighbors in Budapest, Csatary was a "quiet, nice, old man."  But Ladislaus Czizsik-Csatary was placed at the top of the Simone Wiesenthal Center list of most wanted war crime suspects.  

Csatary was not in hiding.  He had lived in Budapest under his real name in at least two addresses for many years.  His car is still parked in a garage on the posh Jagello Street.  But when police visited his homes this week, he was not found, according to press reports.

The Wiesenthal Center, which specializes in tracking down Nazi era war criminals, has told the Hungarian prosecutors that they believe it is the same man who was a police chief in 1944 of the ghetto in the Slovakian city of Kosice, then part of Hungary.  He played a "key role" in the deportation of 300 Jews to Kamyanets-Podilsky in Ukraine where they were killed and also helped organize the deportation of 15,700 Jews to the concentration camp in Auschwitz.  

Karsai concedes that Csatary was unusually sadistic, but disagrees with the Wiesenthal Center that he was a prominent Nazi, although he does feel Csatary should face justice for his crimes in Hungary.

Csatary arrived in Nova Scotia as a refugee under the false name, became a Canadian citizen in 1955 and worked as an art dealer in Montreal.  In 1995, the authorities discovered his real name and revoked his citizenship.  Before fleeing Canada, he admitted to Canadian investigators of his participation in the deportation of the Jews, but claimed that his role was "limited."

Pressure is now mounting on Hungarian prosecutors to take action.  In a statement issued on Monday, the prosecution said that investigating was complex because the crimes were committed long ago and in another country.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Aluminum Company to Pay $646M Fine for Hungarian Sludge Spill

ABC News(BUDAPEST, Hungary) -- The aluminum company responsible for last year's enormous toxic sludge leak in Hungary will now have to pay a fine totaling up to $646 million, according to BBC News.

The MAL Zrt leak killed 10 people and released an unheard-of amount (184 million gallons) of hazardous materials causing environmental harm.  Once the sludge reached the Danube, more than 150 people were injured, BBC News reports.

Now, officials say MAL Zrt will have just two weeks to either appeal the judgement or pay the fine.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Hungary's Red Sludge Found to Be More Caustic Than 9/11 Dust

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(HUNGARY) -- The caustic, red sludge that burst from a reservoir at an aluminum plant in Hungary Monday has been found to be 1,000 times more caustic than the dust at ground zero on 9/11, an environmental health expert has said, amid growing concerns about the lingering effects of the toxic spill.

The flood of sludge burned more than 120 people and killed five as it left a reddened swath of devastation in western Hungary this week, according to environmental advocates on the scene.

After decimating the fish population of the Marcal River, the toxic slurry became more diluted as it reached the mighty Danube River. The torrent of alkaline mud that swamped homes, cars, roads and bridges, particularly in the town of Kolontar, contained byproducts from aluminum manufacturing, which uses caustic soda to turn bauxite, or aluminum ore, into lightweight metal.

The environmental group Greenpeace said Wednesday  the pH level of a mud sample it took from one of the affected towns was 13, which is a level more caustic than household bleach. However, by late Thursday, pH levels closer to the Danube had dropped "down to 9...but there are still dead fish floating around," Martin Hojsík, toxics water campaign coordinator for Greenpeace International, wrote in an e-mail.

Greenpeace sent sludge samples from Kolontar to two outside labs, and planned to release results with pH testing and evidence of heavy metal contamination Friday, Hojsík said.

"A pH of 13 is about as caustic as it gets. This stuff will dissolve anything it touches," said Dr. Philip J. Landrigan, chairman of preventive medicine and dean for global health at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. Acidity and alkalinity are measured on a scale from 1 to 14, with 7 considered neutral. A pH of 1 indicates extreme acidity, like pure sulfuric acid, and a pH of 13 or 14 indicates extreme alkalinity, he explained. "Liquids of extreme alkalinity burn whatever they touch. Like lye."

By way of comparison, Landrigan said the dust produced by the collapse of the burning World Trade Center towers on Sept. 11, 2001, "had a pH of 10 to 11 and wreaked havoc on workers' lungs." One of the first scientists to analyze the 9/11 dust, Paul J. Lioy, chairman of environmental medicine at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, found that the dust got its high pH level from tiny particles of naturally caustic cement.

Landrigan said the pH scale is logarithmic, "so every unit increase on the scale means a 10-fold increase in alkalinity. So this stuff is 1,000 times more caustic than the 9/11 dust."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Toxic Sludge Turns Hungary Town Into Red Ocean

Photo Courtesy -- ABC News(KOLONTAR, Hungary) -- Four people are dead and hundreds have evacuated areas affected by a toxic chemical spill in Hungary on Monday.  The Hungarian government has even launched a criminal investigation into the disaster.

Although officials have not determined an official reason for why a wave containing an alarming amount of toxins would barrel down from the reservoir after a dam burst at a local metal processing plant, recent rain storms are believed to have weakened the mud and rock walls that held back the factory's waste waters.

Residents of Kolontar -- the first town hit by the sludge -- such as Ferenz Andor say they saw the river of sludge pouring out.  Andor told ABC News that the sludge looked like an ocean of red.

On Wednesday, crews were working nonstop to clear the streets, spraying the sludge with water, corralling it and then scooping it up with shovels.

"If it gets to your skin, it's causing like a burning," Gergely Simon of the Clean Air Action Group said. "If it gets to your eyes, you get blinded. If you swallow it, you die."

The fear now is that the sludge could seep into the rivers including the Danube River. As of Tuesday, authorities said that the sludge is five days away from reaching the Danube. If it does reach it, the sludge will flow into six other European countries -- Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Ukraine and Moldova -- before it reaches the Black Sea.

"This is the most important thing, if it goes directly to the Danube it could really be a huge ecological catastrophe," Bendek Javor, Chair of the Sustainable Development Committee of the Hungarian Parliament, said.

Already, the sludge has reached the Marcal River. Emergency workers poured 1,000 tons of plaster into the water to try to keep it from flowing into the Danube.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Toxic Sludge Continues to Flow in Hungary

Photo Courtesy -- ABC News(HUNGARY) -- Hungary is experiencing an "ecological catastrophe" as toxic sludge containing a unique combination of deadly toxins flows from an aluminum plant toward the Raba and Danube Rivers. 

The incident was set off when a dam burst at a local metal processing plant.

"When I heard the rumble of the flood," said one resident, "I only had time to jump out of the window and run to higher ground."

Four people are known to have died while between 80 and 90 people were taken to the hospital Tuesday night with chemical burns.

Additionally, almost 500 police officers and soldiers, including six emergency detection teams, have been deployed. 

To prevent further flooding, plaster has been poured into the Marcal River in an effort to bind the sludge.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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