First Sign of S.Korea Ferry Disaster was Call from a Frightened Boy
April 22, 2014 8:11 PM EST
The first distress call from a sinking South Korean ferry was made by a boy with a shaking voice, three minutes after the vessel made its fateful last turn.
A vessel involved in salvage operations passes near the upturned South Korean ferry ''Sewol'' in the sea off Jindo April 17, 2014.
He called the emergency 119 number which put him through to the fire service, which in turn forwarded him to the coastguard two minutes later. That was followed by about 20 other calls from children on board the ship to the emergency number, a fire service officer told Reuters.
The Sewol ferry sank last Wednesday on a routine trip south from the port of Incheon to the traditional honeymoon island of Jeju.
Of the 476 passengers and crew on board, 339 were children and teachers on a high school outing. Only 174 people have been rescued and the remainder are all presumed to have drowned.
The boy who made the first call, with the family name of Choi, is among the missing. His voice was shaking and sounded urgent, a fire officer told MBC TV. It took a while to identify the ship as the Sewol.
"Save us! We're on a ship and I think it's sinking," Yonhap news agency quoted him as saying.
The fire service official asked him to switch the phone to the captain, and the boy replied: "Do you mean teacher?"
The pronunciation of the words for "captain" and "teacher" is similar in Korean.
The captain of the ship, Lee Joon-seok, 69, and other crew members have been arrested on negligence charges. Lee was also charged with undertaking an "excessive change of course without slowing down".
ONLY OBEYING ORDERS
Several crew members, including the captain, left the ferry as it was sinking, witnesses have said, after passengers were told to stay in their cabins. President Park Geun-hye said on Monday that instruction was tantamount to an "act of murder".
Many of the children did not question their elders, as is customary in hierarchical Korean society. They paid for their obedience with their lives.
Four crew members appeared in court on Tuesday and were briefly questioned by reporters before being taken back into custody. One unidentified second mate said they had tried to reach the lifeboats, but were unable to because of the tilt.
Only two of the vessel's 46 lifeboats were deployed.
Two first mates, one second mate and the chief engineer stood with their heads lowered and it was impossible to tell who was speaking.
One said there had been a mistake as the boat made a turn. Another said there was an eventual order to abandon ship. He said the crew gathered on the bridge and tried to restore balance, but could not.
"Maybe the steering gear was broken," one said.
Media said the ship lost power for 36 seconds, which could have been a factor.
Public broadcaster KBS, quoting transcripts of the conversation between the crew and sea traffic control, the Jindo Vessel Traffic Services Centre, said the passengers were told repeatedly to stay put.
For half an hour, the crew on the third deck kept asking the bridge by walkie-talkie whether or not they should make the order to abandon ship, KBS said.
No one answered.
"At the time, we could not confirm what the situation was on the bridge," KBS quoted a crew member as saying.
"We kept trying to find out but ... since there was no instruction coming from the bridge, the crew on the third floor followed the instructions on the manual and kept making 'stay where you are' announcements. At least three times."
Lee was not on the bridge when the ship turned. Navigation was in the hands of a 26-year old third mate who was in charge for the first time on that part of the journey, according to crew members.
In a confused exchange between the sinking Sewol and maritime traffic control released by the government, the crew said the ship was listing to port.
"Make passengers wear life jackets and get ready in case you need to abandon ship," traffic control said.
The Sewol answered: "It's difficult for the passengers to move now."
Most Popular Slideshows
- Kristen Stewart Moving On With Nicholas Hoult, Jennifer Lawrence Dating Chris Martin – Reports [PHOTOS]
- Kate Middleton Suffocated in Kensington Palace, Queen Elizabeth Reported War With The Duchess [PHOTOS]
- Chris Martin Dating Reports: Jennifer Lawrence Vs Gwyneth Paltrow [PHOTOS]
- 9/11 Dust Cloud Most Likely Have Created Pregnancy Issues: Celebrities Who Posed Nude During Pregnancy
Join the Conversation
- Immediate Deaths After Ice Bucket Challenge Are Hoaxes Gone Viral: Neck Injury And Hypothermia Killed Two People Performing The Stunt
- Risky Selfies That Were Taken A Few Seconds Before Tragedy Struck
- ISIS Beheading US Journalist James Foley Sparks Outrage, Netizens Demand 'All-Out War'
- ISIS Update: Executioner of James Foley with British Accent Identified as ‘John’
- Human Barbie: Ukranian Teenager Lolita Richi Comes Out As A New Human Barbie, Possible Valeria Lukyanova Rival
- Saudi Arabia: Brothers Beheaded For Smuggling Marijuana Into The Kingdom
- ISIS: More Journalists Beheading To Come After James Foley and Steven Sotloff [Video]
- Moto X+1 is Likely Nexus 6 Template; Motorola Shamu is 1st Android Silver with Snapdragon 810 – Reports
- James Foley’s Executioner Has British Accent—A Chilling Reminder That ISIS Has Foreign Members
- ISIS Posts Graphic Beheading Video of US Journalist James Foley
- iPhone 6 Release Date Remains On Course for Sept-Oct 2014 as Apple Delays iWatch Debut to 2015
- James Foley: More Chilling Information Revealed By Escaped Journalists