Tragedy struck in Piraeus on Tuesday night when a passenger who attempted to board a departing ferry fell off the ship’s vehicle ramp after an altercation with crew members.

The 36-year-old man subsequently died.

Videos posted on social media immediately afterwards show the passenger running onto the ramp of the 27,200-gt ropax Blue Horizon (built 1987) just as it was moving away from the pier in Piraeus’ inner harbour.

It is common practice in Greece for ferries to raise their stern ramps after leaving the dock.

The victim, identified by local media as Antonis Karyotis — a day labourer from Crete — appears to have initially been forced back onto the dock by two members of the Blue Horizon’s crew.

During an apparent scuffle, after he made a second attempt to board, he fell off the ramp into the water directly astern of the ship.

Karyotis was shown in video footage struggling in the wake of the ship as it continued with its departure from the port without stopping to help.

The Hellenic Coast Guard retrieved the man from the water in an unconscious state. The agency said he later died in hospital.

The Blue Horizon, which had continued on its voyage to Crete, was ordered to return to Piraeus.

The Piraeus Public Prosecutor’s Office is taking statements from crew and passengers.

The case has caused outrage in Greek media, with eyewitnesses describing it as a “cold-blooded murder”.

Even prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis weighed in on the debate to express his grief. “Yesterday's shameful incident is not an expression of the country we want — I believe that no Greek would like to see it as a reflection of their own image,” he posted on Facebook.

The master and three crew members appeared before a prosecutor on Wednesday to face manslaughter charges.

'Incomprehensible' behavior

Attica Group, Greece’s largest ferry company that controls the ship, said in a statement on its website that its management was “shocked” by the incident and pledged to cooperate fully with investigations.

“The scenes we all watched last night are incomprehensible,” it said.

“The reasons why the clear rules strictly stipulated for all our ships' crews were not followed is the subject of an internal enquiry,” Attica added.

Greek ferry companies have faced severe public criticism for failing to control access to their vessels, often by undocumented migrants, after several fatal accidents at sea.

Karyotis is said to have had a ticket to board the vessel.

Harry Papachristou contributed to this article