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Off-duty captain warned ferry had stability risks

LAST UPDATED: 06:42 a.m. HST, Apr 30, 2014

MOKPO, South Korea >> An off-duty captain of the sunken South Korean ferry has told investigators that the owners ignored his warning that the ship shouldn't carry too much cargo because it wasn't very stable, a prosecutor said Wednesday. 

The captain, whom prosecutors will only identify by his surname, Shin, was on vacation on the day of the accident two weeks ago that has left more than 300, mostly high school students, dead or missing and has caused widespread shame and grief. The ferry was piloted April 16 by a substitute captain, Lee Joon-seok, who is now being detained along with 14 other crew members who were involved in navigating the Sewol.

Yang Jung-jin, a senior prosecutor on the team investigating the sinking off the southern coast, wouldn't say when the captain warned the company and didn't know whether Shin made multiple warnings about stability.  

A stability test report on Jan. 24 from the Korean Register of Shipping showed that the ferry became top-heavy and less stable after a modification of the ship from October 2012 to February 2013 that involved adding more cabins in some of the ship's floors.

Divers have recovered 212 bodies from the wreckage. They fought strong currents and floating debris inside the ship again Wednesday as they searched for 90 passengers still missing. 

Senior prosecutor Ahn Sang-don, also part of the investigation team, said Wednesday that authorities detained two employees at Chonghaejin Marine Co. Ltd., the ferry's owner, on suspicions of accidental homicide stemming from professional negligence in connection with the sinking. Ahn wouldn't identify the employees. 

Meanwhile, family members of high school students killed in the sinking dismissed as insincere President Park Geun-hye's apology for the government's handling of the disaster. They called for the quick retrieval of the missing. The ship carried 476 people, mostly from a single high school. Only 174 people survived, including 22 of the 29 crew members.

After several days of sluggish search efforts because of bad weather, divers on Tuesday retrieved more than a dozen bodies from the ship, which lies on the ocean floor, triggering a fresh outpouring of emotions by family members waiting for the return of their loved ones.  

Park apologized Tuesday for the government's inept initial response to the sinking. Her apology came amid rising indignation over claims by the victims' relatives that the government did not do enough to rescue or protect their loved ones. Earlier Tuesday, she visited a memorial set up in Ansan city where the high school students are from. Some angry family members shouted at Park, demanded an apology and moved away condolence flowers sent by her and other top officials, according to South Korean media reports.

"What Park did at the memorial altar was like coming there to shoot an advertisement, surrounded by bodyguards," Yu Gyeong-geun, the father of one of the students, said Tuesday. 

Kim reported from Seoul. 

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manakuke wrote:
The tragic ‘writing was on the wall’!
on April 30,2014 | 06:22AM
cojef wrote:
Aside from adding 3 additional decks to accommodate more passengers, the ship manifest indicated the the ship was overloaded by over 3,000 pounds. The rough seas created the perfect scenario for the disaster to occur. Economic greed is the cause of this tragedy.
on April 30,2014 | 06:44AM
DABLACK wrote:
Is this possible to happen in our country ??
on April 30,2014 | 08:02AM
rayhawaii wrote:
Why wasn't there a salvage ship that could lift the entire ship out of the water like they did the USS Cole when it had a hole in its side. The whole ship could lay on the deck of the salvage ship and people could of been rescued.
on April 30,2014 | 08:14AM
Hawaii5OhOh wrote:
On one video of the captain in his underwear being rescued by the Korean Coast Guard, a lone Coast Guard sailor goes on board the doomed ferry and tries to deploy the liferafts from a rack of 14 liferaft pods. You can see him struggling to deploy the pods, but couldn't get the pods off the racks. Later, one pod was finally dumped in the ocean, but it didn't inflate, and I think only one life raft finally inflated out of 46. On the ferry's sister ship which was inspected after the sinking, they found out only 2 liferaft pods inflated out of 46 pods. The doomed ferry's captain knew the 46 pods were only fake props, and that was why he told the kids to stay put. The captain and crew should be tried in court for murder.
on April 30,2014 | 08:28AM
ippikiokami wrote:
Prosecutors questioned the ship's crew on when the last emergency drill was conducted. The law states one emergency drill every ten days. The crew members said no emergency drill were ever conducted.
on April 30,2014 | 09:08AM
nitpikker wrote:
company heads should roll, besides the captain's.
on April 30,2014 | 09:26AM
ippikiokami wrote:
There is a photo that I saw from one of the Korean newspapers online, and I am sure the western media showed that same scene from a different angle. It looks like it was the last rescue craft before the ship completely turned over. While the ship was listing and there was a small coast guard rescue craft near the ship, as you look at the cabin windows, many, there is an orange tinge on the inside of the windows. The orange tinge are the life vests of the students looking out of the cabin windows, a chilling and heart breaking photo.
on April 30,2014 | 09:35AM
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