Four crew of S Korean ferry indicted for murder
May 17 Japan Today
The captain and three senior crew members of a South Korean ferry
that capsized in April, killing more than 280 passengers, many of them
school children, were indicted for homicide on Thursday, a senior
prosecutor said.Prosecutors also indicted the 11 other surviving crew
members of the ferry Sewol on negligence charges.
The crew has been under criminal investigation after they were
believed to have escaped the sinking vessel before many passengers.
"The captain, a first officer and second officer and the chief
engineer escaped before the passengers, leading to grave casualties,"
prosecutor Ahn Sang-don, who is leading the investigation, told a news
Ahn said the Sewol was severely compromised in its ability to
maintain stability after a remodeling to add capacity, and had set sail
on April 16 massively overloaded and with insufficient water in the
ballast tanks used to keep it steady.Strong currents in the disaster
zone made the vessel less responsive to navigation and prompted the crew
to make a turn of 15 degrees, sharper than advisable, which led the
ferry to list rapidly and then sink, he said.
"The captain should have been in command of the navigation, but left
that to a third officer, and that is gross negligence," Ahn said, adding
there was enough evidence to support a charge of willful negligence on
the part of the captain and three other officers.
"The charge of homicide was applied because they did not exercise
their duty of aid and relief, leading to the deaths of passengers," he
said, adding that some crew had confessed "they were thinking about
their own lives."The Sewol was on a routine journey from the mainland
port of Incheon to the southern holiday island of Jeju.
Of the 476 passengers and crew on board, 339 were children and their
teachers on a school trip. Only 172 people were rescued, with the rest
presumed to have drowned.
A month after the disaster, 281 bodies have been recovered but 23
people remain missing, even as rescue divers continue to search the
vessel.Some of the crew, including the captain, were caught on videotape
abandoning ship while the children were repeatedly told to stay put in
their cabins and await further orders.
The government of President Park Geun-hye has faced sharp criticism
for its handling of the disaster and the rescue effort, with an
outpouring of anger over suggestions that a more effective initial
response could have saved many more. Prosecutors are seeking the arrest
of members of the family that owns the ferry operator, and may also seek
the extradition of a son of the reclusive head of the family from the
United States, an official said on Thursday.Prosecutors are also
investigating officials of shipping inspection agencies and the operator
of the ferry. The crew members' first court date has yet to be set.