The captain of a South Korean ferry carrying 475 passengers that sank on Wednesday — killing 28 and leaving 268 missing — arrived in court late Friday night to face a prosecutor’s request for his formal arrest.
Lee Joon-seok, 68, was taken into custody amid reports that an inexperienced crew member may have been at the ship\’s control when it overturned, and survivors\’ claims that the crew did not act swiftly enough to evacuate its mostly high school-student passengers.
The South Korean agency said Lee Joon-seok faces five charges including negligence of duty and violation of maritime law.
Yonhap said a local court had issued arrest warrants for him and two other crew members on these charges.
The move to arrest the captain, Lee Joon-seok, on Friday, comes after it emerged that a junior officer was at the helm at the time of the sinking of the ferry on Wednesday that has claimed at least 28 lives and left 268 others missing.
"The captain was not in command when the accident took place," state prosecutor Park Jae-Eok told a press briefing on preliminary findings of the investigation into the disaster.
Of 475 passengers and crew on the Sewol ferry 179 people were listed as safe and 268 were still missing.
Police said a high school vice principal who had been rescued from the ferry was found hanging Friday from a pine tree on Jindo, an island near the sunken ship where survivors have been housed.
He was the leader of a group of 323 students travelling on the ship on a school excursion, and said in a suicide note that he felt guilty for being alive while more than 200 of his students were missing.
Police say he was found Friday hanging by his belt from a tree near a gym on the island of Jindo where survivors and relatives of those missing have been staying.
The investigation into South Korea\’s ferry disaster focused on the sharp turn it took just before it began listing and on the possibility that a quicker evacuation order by the captain could have saved lives, officials said on Friday, as rescuers struggled to find some 270 people still missing and feared dead.
Most of those on board were children from a high school in the suburbs of Seoul who were on a field trip to Jeju.
Authorities have prepared cranes to try to lift the ferry, but relatives demanded they wait until there is certainty that none are alive.
Government, volunteer, and donor tents and food trucks are wrapped around the harbor.
Seo Joon-baek, a Salvation Army officer, says they are preparing food for about 500 people every day. They are also cooperating with other volunteers as well.
It is still not certain what caused the 6,300-ton ferry on Wednesday to sink.
Authorities are looking at the possibility the ship hit something in the water, or a sudden change in course caused a dramatic shift in cargo balance.
Source: AP and agencies