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Captain and crew members of sunken ferry Sewol charged with murder

May 15, 2014, 11:58 UTC+3

The crew being aware of the critical situation did not order to start the evacuation of passengers until the last moment

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SEOUL, May 15. / ITAR-TASS/. The Prosecutor's Office of South Korea charged with murder four members of the crew of the sunken ferry Sewol. They are the captain 68 -year-old Lee Joon Seok, senior mechanics, the first and second assistants,  the prosecutor of the port city Mokpo reported. In the course of the investigation of the circumstances of the accident it has been discovered that the crewmembers including the ferry’s captain were among the first to leave the ship. In addition, it became known that the crew being aware of the critical situation did not order to start the evacuation of passengers until the last moment. The Prosecutor’s General Office stated that captain of the sunken ferry Sewol Lee Joon Seok, third mate and helmsman could face charges of homicide. If the guilty will be proved, they could be sentenced to life imprisonment. The captain was also charged with violating  the rescue rules and the non-compliance. The other 11 crew members accused of negligence and abandonment the ship in danger.

South Korean Sewol passenger ferry with 6,825 tonnage was travelling from the port of Incheon to the island of Jeju. The ship sank on April 16 to the south-west off of the Korean peninsula. A total of 476 people were onboard. Most of the passengers, 325, were schoolchildren from the city of Ansan. The ferry captain, along with most of the crew, was among 172 survivors of the tragedy. 269 people died and another 35 a reported missing.

According to preliminary investigation results, about 90% of the victims had life vests on them. “235 out of 269 victims, whose bodies were found during the first stage of the search and rescue operation, had life vests on them,” Coast guard chief Kim Suk-kyoon said.

Yonhap news agency said that more passengers could have survived if the ship’s crew and rescuers reacted timely.

Case against all 15 crew members will be considered in the Gwangju city court.

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