UK & World News

  • 26 April 2014, 11:28

South Korea Ferry: All 15 Crew In Custody

A prosecutor investigating the South Korean ferry sinking says all 15 crew members involved in the ship's navigation are now in custody after four more were arrested.

Yang Jung-jin, of the joint investigation team, said two helmsmen and two members of the steering crew were detained this morning.

Eleven other crew members, including the captain, were previously arrested.

All the crew are accused of negligence and of failing to help passengers in need as the ferry sank on 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.

Meanwhile, officials said divers searching the submerged hull of the ferry found 48 bodies in a room designed to take 38.

At least 35 rooms of the ferry's 111 rooms have been searched so far.

More than 80% of the 302 dead and missing are students from a single high school from the town of Ansan, south of Seoul.

The government has admitted some bodies had been misidentified and announced changes to prevent such mistakes from happening again.

There have been several reports in the South Korean media this week of bodies going to the wrong families, with the error sometimes being identified only after remains had been taken to a funeral home.

An "action plan" released by a government-wide emergency task force acknowledged that there had "been cases where the victims were wrongly transferred".

Divers have recovered 183 bodies so far, but 119 people remain missing feared dead in the dark rooms of the submerged vessel.

The ferry was on its way from the mainland to the resort island of Jejuwhen it went down.

President Barack Obama, who has been in South Korea as part of a state visit, offered his condolences for those who had lost their lives.

He presented President Park Geun-hye with an American flag that flew over the White House the day the ship sank.

He said: "So many were young students with their entire lives ahead of them. I can only imagine what the parents are going through at this point, the incredible heartache."

Accepting the flag, Ms Park drew a parallel between the way Americans pulled together after the 9/11 attacks and the resilience of South Koreans following one of the worst maritime disasters in their country's history.

"The Korean people draw great strength from your kindness," she said.

Prosecutors have raided and seized documents at the Korean Register of Shipping and the Korea Shipping Association, which regulates and oversees departures and arrivals of domestic passenger ships.

On Friday night, people in Ansan, where most of the victims came from, gathered to rememberthose who had died at a candle-lit vigil.