South Korea ferry disaster
South Korea Ferry Disaster

Parents want autopsies to see if Jindo ferry victims died while trapped inside

Some families want to know if children died while trapped inside South Korean vessel

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 24 April, 2014, 11:02pm
UPDATED : Friday, 25 April, 2014, 11:20am

Some parents of the young victims of South Korea's ferry disaster are pushing for autopsies that might show their children were alive inside the submerged vessel and only died because the emergency response was so slow.

The death toll yesterday stood at 171, but 131 were still missing as dive teams searched in near pitch-black conditions for bodies trapped in the ferry's interior.

More than a week after the Sewol sank with 476 people on board, most of them high school pupils, there is still widespread anger among the victims' families over the pace of the initial rescue effort.

It took divers more than two days to get into the sunken ferry, and two more days to retrieve the first bodies.

Many relatives believe some victims survived for several days in trapped air pockets, but perished in the cold water.

As a result, some have asked for autopsies to be performed, to try to determine the precise cause and time of death.

"We have received a number of enquiries about autopsies," said a member of the forensic team identifying bodies.

"But it's only a minority that is asking," he said.

An official responsible for legal issues at the emergency situation desk on Jindo said there was nothing to prevent families having an autopsy carried out. "But to my knowledge, nobody has so far actually brought a body to the National Forensic Service to have this done," he said.

Of those on board, 325 were from Danwon High School in Ansan city just south of Seoul.

Kim Hyong-ki, the spokesman for a representative committee set up by the relatives, confirmed that some parents were pushing for autopsies. "That said, most people oppose it because they can't bear the idea of the bodies being damaged any more," Kim said. "My daughter's body is still out there in the sea, but I don't want anyone dissecting it after it is recovered."