South Korea ferry disaster

All 15 crew that navigated stricken South Korean ferry held, says prosecutor

Four more detainees face allegations of negligence and failing to help passengers

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 26 April, 2014, 3:13pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 27 April, 2014, 6:42am

All 15 people involved in navigating the South Korean ferry that sank and left more than 300 people dead or missing are now in custody after four more crew were detained yesterday.

Two helmsmen and two members of the steering crew were taken in on preliminary arrest warrants issued late on Friday. Eleven other crew members, including the captain, were formally arrested earlier.

All are accused of negligence and of failing to help passengers in need as the ferry Sewol sank April 16.

The captain initially told passengers to stay in their rooms and took half an hour to issue an evacuation order, by which time the ship was tilting too severely for many people to get out.

Ten days after the sinking, 187 bodies have been recovered and 115 people are believed to be missing, though the government-wide emergency task force has said the ship's passenger list could be inaccurate. Only 174 people survived, including 22 of the 29 crew members.

The seven surviving crew members who have not been arrested or detained were chefs or stewards, said Yang Jung-jin, of the joint investigation team

Helmsman Oh Yong-seok, one of those detained yesterday, has said he and several crew members did their best to save people. He said that he and four crew members worked from nearby boats to smash windows on the ferry, dragging six passengers stuck in cabins to safety.

Officials in charge of the search effort said yesterday that divers have reached two large rooms where many of the lost may lie dead, but the search had to be suspended because of bad weather.

Currents were already strong in the morning, as they were in the first several days of the search, when divers struggled in vain even to get inside the submerged vessel.

"This morning [the divers] did a primary dive, but because of the strong current they were losing their masks, so we have stopped the dive," Kim Jin-hwang, a South Korean navy official said.

The two rooms where searchers hope to find more of the missing soon are sleeping units designed for many people - one in the stern and one in the bow.

Fifty students from Danwon High School in Ansan were booked into one of them.

Students from the city near Seoul make up more than 80 per cent of the dead and missing.

They were travelling on the ferry from Incheon to the southern tourist island of Jeju.

Large objects that toppled when the ferry tipped over and sank are believed to be keeping divers from reaching bodies in at least one of the rooms.

"Many structures ... all fell down as the ship listed, and now are all buried on the left side. Because of the weighty objects it was impossible to entirely search the room," Kim said.

There is not only uncertainty about how many people were on the Sewol, but a huge discrepancy regarding the amount of cargo it was carrying when it sank.

In view of this, the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries said that from June 1, ferries would process passenger, vehicle and cargo information electronically.