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May 26, 2017

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South Korean diver dies while working site of doomed ferry

SEOUL--A diver died Tuesday while working at the scene of South Korea's ferry disaster, as investigators disclosed that the ship was carrying nearly four times its legal limit of cargo.

Lee Gwang-wook, 53, suffered breathing difficulties after reaching a depth of 25 meters (82 feet), said coastguard spokesman Ko Myung-suk.

The 53-year-old, who was making his first dive at the scene, lost consciousness and was pronounced dead in hospital.

Lee lost contact with surface controllers after five minutes in the water. His air hose was found entangled with other lines, a coastguard official was quoted as saying by Yonhap news agency.

"He was a veteran diver, who used to work up to 60 meters below the surface," his brother-in-law Kim Hyun-chul told journalists, adding Lee had no health problems.

He was the first victim among scores of divers engaged in the grim and dangerous task of finding and retrieving bodies from the sunken ship, while fighting strong currents and low visibility in silty water.

Some 10 others have received treatment for exhaustion and decompression sickness since the operation began.

It has been 20 days since the 6,825-tonne Sewol capsized and sank with 476 people on board — most of them schoolchildren — off the southwest coast.

The confirmed death toll rose to 264 on Tuesday afternoon, while 38 people remain missing.

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