Heartbreaking video shows students as ferry Sewol sinks
By Foster Klug and Hyung-jin Kim, AP
May 2, 2014, 12:21 am TWN
SEOUL -- Soon after the ferry begins to tilt, nervous laughter can be heard from the high school students huddled below deck. In video clips stored on the cellphone of one of the young victims of a disaster that has shaken South Korea, the teenagers line up selfies, wonder if they'll make the news and discuss posting about the excitement later on Facebook.
The fear in the cabin builds as the listing becomes worse. Some say they feel dizzy, that their legs are shaking. One student can be seen walking with his hands braced against the wall for balance.
"Am I really going to die?" a student asks at 8:53 a.m. April 16, less than two minutes into the video and the same time a crew member on the bridge made the ferry's first distress call.
Students ask whether the ship will sink and where their teachers are. "What's the captain doing?"
The shaky video was on the cellphone of a 17-year-old student, Park Su-hyeon, when rescuers recovered his body. The boy's father provided it Thursday to The Associated Press, saying he wanted to show the world the ship's condition as it sank. Park Jong-dae, the boy's father, earlier released it to select South Korean media.
The tragedy, which has left more than 300 people dead or missing, has created a sense of national mourning, anger and shame. Nearly 220 bodies, mostly from inside the submerged vessel, have so far been recovered. More than 80 percent of the victims were students from one high school in Ansan, south of Seoul, on their way to the southern tourist island of Jeju for a school trip.
The group of teens in the video alternate between bluster, attempts at humor and unmistakable fear.
Only one can be seen wearing a life jacket at the beginning of the video clips, which start at 8:52 a.m. and end, with a small break between them, at 9:09, when everyone appears to be wearing them.
Some of the students in the video struggle as they try to buckle their life jackets. As the ferry lists, they joke about "final commemorative pictures" and "defying gravity" by trying to walk on the walls.
"It's like we're becoming the Titanic," one student says.
At the beginning of the video, a message blasts from the ship's loudspeakers: "Don't move away from your places and brace for any possible accidents."
In subsequent announcements, passengers are again told to stay put.
That warning came eight minutes after a Sewol crew member told a marine traffic official, "The body of the ship has tilted, and it's impossible to move," according to a transcript.
A student says: "We have to survive now."
"We're all finished. I have to leave some farewell words before I die," says another.
"Mom, I love you," says one.