A South Korean ferry sank off the country’s southern coast on Wednesday.
Lee Joon-seok, who captained the Sewol during the tragic incident, was taken into police custody on Saturday along with two other crew members.
Lee faces five separate charges, including negligence of duty and violation of maritime law.
The 68-year-old man has four decades of experience as a ferry captain, however he was revealed to not be the boat’s main captain. According to a crew member, Lee captains the vessel at most ten days per month.
Said Lee, “I am sorry to the people of South Korea for causing a disturbance and I bow my head in apology to the families of the victims.” He gave the statement ahead of departing the Mokpo Branch of Gwangju District Court to jail.
Prior to his arrest, Lee came under heavy public scrutiny for his decision delay evacuation procedures. He was actually thought to have gotten off the ship well ahead of many passengers.
“At the time, the current was very strong [and the] ocean water was cold,” said Lee “I thought that if people left the ferry without wearing a life jacket […] they would drift away and face many other difficulties.”
Lee continues to justify his decision even as the delay is blamed for the heavy casualties suffered.
— Jaehwan Cho 조재환 (@hohocho) April 19, 2014
Because of the delay in evacuation, authorities believe that many passengers were unable to escape the ship due to the steep angle of the sinking ferry.
The prosecutors will have ten days to decide whether or not to indict Lee and the other crew members. It’s possible the prosecution may ask for an extension.
— #PrayForSouthKorea (@Pray4SouthKorea) April 19, 2014
Of the 476 people aboard the Sewol, 36 have been confirmed dead. 266 people are still missing. South Korean officials fear that many of the passengers are still trapped in the sunken vessel.
UPDATE: Officials say rescuers broke the window on 4th floor and have retrieved the 3 bodies 40 minutes ago. Death count now at 36 #Sewol
— Joseph Kim (@josungkim) April 19, 2014
Hundreds of military, government, and civilian divers are said to be involved in the ongoing rescue effort.
The ferry incident is considered by many South Koreans to be one of the worst tragedies in recent history. Condolences are being sent to grieving family members from around the world.
Meanwhile many relatives and friends of still missing passengers desperately await news.
Image via YouTube