S Korean Ferry Disaster Causes One Suicide and Three Arrests

The Captain, a female third mate, and a 55-year-old helmsman have been arrested following the ferry disaster in South Korea. Five charges were filed against 68-year-old Ferry Captain Lee Joon-seok, including negligence of duty and violation of maritime law. The charges against the other two crew members were not revealed.

What is known about the ferry disaster is that the vessel carrying 475 passengers made a sharp turn at 8:48, and the ferry sent out a distress signal at 9:00 before sinking completely at 14:00. The cause of the turn, whether initiated by the crew or an outside object, is unclear. 179 people have survived the sinking, and there have been 28 confirmed deaths.

The rest of the victims, 268 people, are unaccounted for and assumed to be dead and trapped inside the submerged ferry. Rescue teams are continuing to pump oxygen into the sunken ferry in hopes of saving anyone who might still be alive. The oxygen is also intended to increase the ferry’s buoyancy to bring it back to the surface.

Over the ferry’s slow demise, many of the passengers, including kids, were in contact with friends and family on the shore. One missing girl described the scene to her father while onboard the ferry:

“Dad, don’t worry. I’ve got a life vest on and we’re huddled together,” a student identified as Shin, 18, texted her father.

Dad’s reply: “I know the rescue is underway, but make your way out if you can.”

“Dad, I can’t walk out,” she replied. “The corridor is full of kids, and it’s too tilted.”

According to Yonhap, a South Korean news agency, the ferry was taking 325 second year students from Danwon High School in Ansan on a four day trip to the island of Jeju – about 20 miles south of Seoul. The vice principal of the school, 52-year-old Kang Min-gyu, disappeared and was recently found dead. It’s believed that he committed suicide because of the ferry disaster.

The captain of the ferry was not present on the bridge during the fatal turn. This fact contributes to the charges against him since according to the law, the captain of a ferry must be present during navigation. Also, many survivors reported that they never got the order to evacuate the ferry. Captain Lee said he did give the order, and it’s likely that chaos within the ferry could have prevented the message from spreading. Even so, the order was given a half hour late – and every minute during this ferry disaster was crucial. A transcript of a ship-to-shore radio exchange will be used to help make sense of what happened that day.

[Image Via Bing]