South Korean ferry diver dies trying to recover missing passengers; 19 people arrested as investigations continue

35 passengers still missing.

Published 06 May 2014  |  
AP
South Korean ferry sinks

A civilian diver died Tuesday morning in the recovery mission for the missing South Korean Sewol ferry passengers.

The 53-year old, identified only as "Lee," was pulled from the water unconscious, and later died at an area hospital. The man is the first diver to die since the ferry sank on April 16.

Emergency task force spokesman Ko Myung-seok that it was the man's first search attempt, and that he lost communication with his team about five minutes into the underwater mission. Lee had 30 years of diving experience.

More favorable weather and current conditions recently helped divers recover bodies more easily from the sunken ferry.

So far, 267 bodies have been pulled from the ferry, and 174 passengers and crew survived the disaster.

Poor visibility and debris have slowed the nearly three-week search. In a statement, Ko said that divers are making their way into three unsearched rooms on the third floor, and will check previously searched rooms again.

Legal actions are also progressing against Sewol crew members. 15 people have been arrested for abandoning ship, and one executive was arrested for improper financial dealings with Chonghaejin, the company that owns the ferry.

Three people were arrested for improper handling of the Sewol's cargo. Investigators found that the vessel had over 3,000 tons of cargo on-board—more than three times its legal limit. An overloaded ferry can easily tip over when making a turn. The ferry was also loaded incorrectly. Investigating prosecutor Yang Jung-jin stated on April 25 that improper steering, inappropriate cargo stowage, ship modifications, and the tide may have caused the capsizing.

476 people were on board the vessel, which was headed to Jeju from Seoul. Over 300 of the passengers were students and staff members of Seoul's Ansan Danwon High School. 22 of the 29 Sewol crew members survived.

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