​Divers: More Bodies Recovered From South Korea Ferry

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April 19, 2021

Divers find more bodies from the South Korea ferry that sank, leaving more than 300 missing or dead. The captain and two crew members of the ferry have been arrested on on suspicion of negligence and abandoning people in need.

The accident is also being blamed on a rookie crew member who prosecutors say was steering in unfamiliar waters when the accident occurred.

The number of confirmed dead rose to 36 after divers broke a window in the submerged ferry and retrieved three more bodies, Kim Kwang-hyun, a coast guard official, said early Sunday. These apparently were the first bodies recovered from inside the ferry since it sank Wednesday.

Kim said he had no information about whether the divers actually entered the submerged ferry to pull out the bodies or whether divers were now able to search the rest of the ship for bodies or any unlikely survivors. Strong currents and rain have prevented divers from searching inside the ferry.

Hundreds of civilian, government and military divers were involved in the search Saturday. A civilian diver saw three bodies inside the ship Saturday but was unable to break the windows, said another coast guard official, Kwon Yong-deok. It was not known whether these were the same bodies recovered later.

Earlier Saturday, four bodies were discovered in the murky waters near the ferry, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported.

The ferry’s captain, Lee Joon-seok, 68, was arrested along with one of the Sewol’s three helmsmen and the 25-year-old third mate, prosecutors said.

“I am sorry to the people of South Korea for causing a disturbance and I bow my head in apology to the families of the victims,” Lee told reporters Saturday morning as he left the Mokpo Branch of Gwangju District Court to be jailed. But he defended his much-criticized decision to wait about 30 minutes before ordering an evacuation.

“At the time, the current was very strong, the temperature of the ocean water was cold, and I thought that if people left the ferry without (proper) judgment, if they were not wearing a life jacket, and even if they were, they would drift away and face many other difficulties,” Lee said. “The rescue boats had not arrived yet, nor were there any civilian fishing ships or other boats nearby at that time.”

The Sewol ferry sank off South Korea’s southern coast Wednesday with 476 people aboard, most of them students on holiday from a single high school. About 265 people are still missing, and most are believed to be trapped inside the 6,852-ton vessel.