Captain Abandonned Ship, Leaves Hundreds of Children to Die


Michael Ransom, Senior CorrespondentLast Modified: 23:38 p.m. DST, 23 April 2014

Nearly 300 missing as ferry carrying school children sinks off South Koream, Photo Collage by Gullpress WNAJINDO COUNTY, South Korea - Efforts once aimed at rescuing passengers aboard the downed Sewol ferry have transformed into a labored search to recover the bodies still aboard the small ship.

174 people were saved during the disaster last Wednesday, 16 April 2014, in part because of S.O.S. phone call from a young student. Despite the number rescued, over 300 are presumed dead.

The death toll increases by the hour. In the last few days divers have discovered multiple routes to high capacity rooms such as the cafeteria. They are now able to transport greater numbers of victims to the nearby Jindo island. Here, families and friends of the missing have assembled to wait for any news.

The majority of travelers were students from Danwon High School, destined for Jeju City on a field trip. At least 325 students and 15 teachers were housed in various quarters in the upper levels of the ferry. Most are still missing and presumed dead.

At about 9:30 Wednesday morning, the unsteady boat become deadly, tilting at a severe angle. Soon, passengers reached out to loved ones in grave text messages and phone calls. All the while, they were ordered to stay put. The children were separated throughout the ship, primarily in the cafeteria, which was centrally located in the heart of the craft.

In the week since the tragedy, the grieving process has taken many forms. Initial hope that those trapped throughout the vessel could have ample air pockets kept many optimistic. As time passed and the rescue proved slow and difficult, families have been outspoken in their criticism of the emergency response.

The cause of the accident is still unknown, but collected evidence helps to explain potential problems during those fateful morning hours. For one, Captain Lee Jun-Seok was not at the controls when the ship began to sway. Against all moral and legal justification, he was one of the first to leave the rocky vessel.

President Park Geun-hye was quick to admonish the Captain, who has been arrested along with six of his crew. While his actions are certainly reprehensible and his failure to evacuate the ship exacerbated the crisis, he is not alone in his guilt.

Allegedly, the Cheonghaejin Marine Company pressured the crew to sail in unfavorable weather conditions, and likely misrepresented the amount of cargo stored in the body of the ferry. Additionally, the life boats aboard the Sewol were unfit for use, calling the company, the national inspection system and the government itself into question. The investigation is ongoing. 

While these claims do not clear the Captain of his wrongdoings, they do suggest the issue is bigger than just one man, or seven crew members. This tragedy could have been prevented at many stages, even before the ship set sail. Even so, the decision to keep the passengers inside the ship was ultimately the Captain's. And, so were his efforts to flee.

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