All 15 of disaster ferry crew held in custody

Crew members hide their faces under baseball caps outside court in the city of Mokpo. Picture: Reuters
Crew members hide their faces under baseball caps outside court in the city of Mokpo. Picture: Reuters
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ALL 15 crew members involved in navigating the doomed South Korean ferry which left 302 people dead or missing ­after sinking are now in ­custody.

Prosecutor Yang Jung-jin from the joint investigation team said two helmsmen and two members of the steering crew from the bridge have been detained.

Eleven other crew members, including the captain, were arrested previously.

They are accused of negligence and of failing to help passengers in need as the ­Sewol sank on 16 April.

The captain initially told passengers to stay in their rooms and took half an hour to issue an evacuation order, by which time the ship was tilting too severely for many people to escape.

Ten days after the sinking, 187 bodies have been recovered and 115 people remain ­missing.

Divers have reached two large rooms which may contain the bodies of many of the missing, but the search has been suspended due to bad weather.

Strong winds and rain were expected today at the site of the wreck near Jindo island, off South Korea’s south coast.

Kim Jin-hwang, who is commanding the dive search, said yesterday: “This morning [the divers] did a primary dive, but because of the strong current they were losing their masks, so we have stopped the dive for now.”

A spokesman for the emergency task force said: “We are expecting the weather to deteriorate in the afternoon but the government will do its best in the rescue and search ­process.”

The two rooms where searchers hope to find more of the missing are dormitories, one in the stern and one in the bow.

Fifty pupils from Danwon High School in the city of Ansan, in the north-west of Korea, on their way to the southern tourist island of Jeju, were booked into one of them.

Students from the city, near the capital Seoul, make up more than 80 per cent of the 302 people dead or missing.

Large objects which fell when the ferry tipped over and sank are believed to be keeping divers from reaching bodies in at least one of the rooms.

Families have been upset with the pace of the recovery effort, along with several miscommunications by the government and perceptions of insensitivity.

The government has been accused of rejecting help it should have accepted, such as a diving bell that civilian volunteer Lee Jong-in, of Alpha Sea Rescue, offered several days ago.

The diving bell provides oxygen to divers and allows them to stay under water longer. The coastguard previously said the current and water depth at the site made the bell unusable, but the government announced on Friday that it would be deployed.

The task force spokesman said the bell had not been used because the process of setting it up “didn’t go smoothly”.

There have also been reports of bodies going to the wrong families, with the error sometimes caught only after the remains were taken to a funeral home. On Friday, the government announced changes to prevent such mistakes from happening again.