Off-duty ferry captain warned owners of stability problems
By Youkyung Lee and Hyung-Jin Kim, AP
May 1, 2014, 12:03 am TWN
MOKPO, South Korea--An off-duty captain of the sunken South Korean ferry has told investigators that the owners ignored his warning that the ship shouldn't carry too much cargo because it wasn't very stable, a prosecutor said Wednesday.
The captain, who was identified only by his surname, Shin, was on vacation on the day of the accident two weeks ago that has left more than 300 people, mostly high school students, dead or missing and has caused widespread grief and shame. The ferry was piloted April 16 by a substitute captain, Lee Joon-seok, who has been detained along with 14 other crew members who were involved in navigating the Sewol.
Yang Jung-jin, a senior prosecutor on the team investigating the sinking off the southern coast, wouldn't say when the captain warned the company and didn't know whether Shin made multiple warnings about stability.
A stability test report on Jan. 24 from the Korean Register of Shipping showed that the ferry became top-heavy and less stable after modifications were made from October 2012 to February 2013 that involved adding more cabins on some of its floors.
Divers have recovered 212 bodies from the wreckage. They fought strong currents and floating debris inside the ship again Wednesday as they searched for 90 people still missing.
Senior prosecutor Ahn Sang-don, also part of the investigation team, said Wednesday that authorities detained two employees of Chonghaejin Marine Co. Ltd., the ferry's owner, on suspicion of accidental homicide stemming from professional negligence in connection with the sinking. Ahn wouldn't identify the employees.
Meanwhile, family members of high school students killed in the sinking dismissed as insincere President Park Geun-hye's apology for the government's handling of the disaster. They called for the quick retrieval of the missing. The ship carried 476 people, mostly from a single high school. Only 174 people survived, including 22 of the 29 crew members.
After several days of sluggish search efforts because of bad weather, divers on Tuesday retrieved more than a dozen bodies from the ship, which lies on the ocean floor, triggering a fresh outpouring of emotions by family members waiting for the return of their loved ones.