Videos capturing ferry’s final moments fuel fresh outrage over ship’s fate
JINDO, South Korea — In one video, the captain of the sinking South Korean ferry scrambles to safety. In another, stranded passengers panic.
“Wow, it’s tilting a lot. We’re tilting to this side. Can’t move,” one says.
“You think I’m really going to die?” another cries.
The two recordings fueled fresh outrage Monday over the Sewol ferry’s sinking as questions swirled over why so many perished in the disaster while many members of the ship’s crew survived.
The video capturing passengers’ panic was recorded by a teenage boy on the vessel, according to South Korean national TV network JTBC. The teen’s father gave the network the footage after authorities recovered his son’s body and found the cell phone. Its memory card was still intact, JTBC reported.
The network shared a roughly three-minute audio clip of the video with CNN, which translated the exchanges.
The clip provides a horrifying glimpse into the uncertainty and desperation inside the ferry as it rolled.
Meanwhile, outside the ferry, rescuers were circling, a video released by South Korea’s coast guard shows.
The video shows the coast guard’s rescue of Lee Joon-seok, the ship’s captain, who scrambles off the stricken vessel in his underwear.
Speaking out about it for the first time on Monday, the men who rescued him said they had no idea who he was until later.
“During the rescue operation, people were just dropping in the sea,” South Korean coast guard Capt. Kim Kyung Il told reporters. “Everyone was wearing a life vest, so we couldn’t tell who was passenger, and who was crew.”
Arrests and an investigation
Many South Koreans have lambasted the government’s response to the disaster, saying it has been too slow. South Korean authorities are pressing a criminal investigation.
The ship’s captain and 14 others have been arrested. Prosecutors in Mokpo, who are leading the ferry investigation, tell CNN that all the 15 crew members in charge of sailing and the engine room have been indicted and are being held in the Mokpo prison.
Authorities also arrested three people Monday on suspicion of destroying evidence connected to the sinking of the ferry.
On Sunday, South Korea’s Prime Minister announced his resignation, saying he wants to take responsibility for the initial reaction to the disaster.
Chung Hong-won apologized “on behalf of the government for the many problems that arose during the first response and the subsequent rescue operation” in addition to “problems that existed before the accident.”
While political fallout occurs, the father of the boy who shot the cell phone video is beside himself with grief.
“My son, it must have been cold and dark where you were,” said Park Jong-dae, weeping as he read a statement on JTBC. “How much you must have been cold and afraid?
“I hoped and prayed for your survival, but it didn’t turn out that way. My son, now it’s time for us to say goodbye. It’s time for you and me to say goodbye and for me to let go of the hope that I could not let go so far. Please forgive me. Farewell. …”
Confusion and a warning to stay put
On Monday, searchers continued to look for passengers and crew, and so far have retrieved 193 bodies. Another 109 people are still missing.
The fate of those seen and heard on the video is not known.
Coast guard officials told reporters on Monday that when they arrived at the site of the shipwreck, the ferry was listing so badly that they immediately sounded their alarm.
“When we got there, we used our speakers to tell everyone to get off the boat and get into the water,” Kim said.
At some point inside the ferry, passengers — including 300 students on a school field trip — apparently heard a different message.
In the audio recording provided by JTBC, a voice on a public address system warns that everyone should stay where they are: “Do not move from your present location and please stay. …”
While some seem confused, there are people who appear to joke around, clearly not fully comprehending the gravity of what’s happening. At one point a voice is heard saying, “This trip is screwed.”
Others seem more distressed by the situation and ask about life jackets.
“Mom, dad, dad, dad! What about my younger sibling?” one cries.
Some passengers talk to one another, trying to reassure and inform. Another voice says, “I think it’s calming down.”
Then: “Is it calming down?”
“It’s going more to the left.”
“I think it’s better than it was before.”
“I’m wearing the life vest.”
“I’m wearing one, too. I really have to.”
“I have to wear one, too.”
Some appear to try to help others.
One shouts, “Hey!” then says the name of someone who doesn’t have a life jacket. “We need to get one!”
As the video continues, it seems that no one knows what’s really happening.
“What’s the captain doing?” one person asks.
Later, a voice is heard saying, “They should let us know what’s going on.”