South Korean divers resumed searching Thursday for 268 people – many of them teenagers – missing nearly 24 hours after an ocean-going ferry capsized near an island off the South Korean coast.
A total of 268 people – including scores of high school students – remain missing after Wednesday\’s disaster.
Twenty-eight people are now known to have died and 179 were rescued.
Divers, hampered by strong tides and murky waters, have been unable to gain access inside the ferry.
The vessel started to sink on Wednesday on a routine trip out of the major port of Incheon to the holiday island of Jeju, 480km to the south.
The third officer was at the helm of the ferry that capsized off South Korea, investigators said, as divers worked to access the sunken hull.
South Korean prosecutors on Friday said that the third officer was in charge of the bridge when the ferry capsized in calm seas on Wednesday.
"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.
Coastguard officials have said the investigation was focused on possible crew negligence, problems with cargo stowage and structural defects of the vessel, although the ship appears to have passed all of its safety and insurance checks.
The captain, Lee Joon-seok, faces criminal investigation, which is standard procedure in South Korea.
Relatives of those who died have accused him and some of his crew of being among the first to leave the vessel.
Both 69-year-old Lee and the company that owns the ship have apologised for the loss of life, although neither has admitted responsibility.
Most of those on board were children from a high school in the suburbs of Seoul who were on a field trip to Jeju.
Their relatives have endured a long wait for news – their anguish compounded by conflicting information about numbers of survivors issued early on.
In a public statement issued on Friday, families of the missing called for more urgent action.