South Korea is no longer searching for nine people missing in the sinking of the Sewol ferry, an accident earlier this year that led to the death of 295 people, most of them students, South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reported Monday. South Korean Prime Minister Chung Hong-won made the decision to end the search after a meeting with government ministers.
A female student was the last person recovered during the search effort in October, making the official death toll 295 out of 476 people on board. Nine passengers remain unaccounted for, and two rescue divers were killed in connection with the disaster.
The Sewol, which was headed for the South Korean island of Jeju from Incheon, sunk off the cost of Jindo island on April 16 because cargo wasn’t tied properly to the ferry and the ship was carrying too much cargo, prosecutors said. The incident led to several criminal investigations, including murder charges for the Sewol’s captain and three crew members and abandoning ship charges for 11 others on the crew of the South Korean ferry. Meanwhile, Yoo Byung-eun, the owner of a company that owns the Sewol, had an arrest warrant issued for him, but he was found dead before the warrant could be served.
The trial into the South Korean ferry disaster found that passengers allegedly were told to stay in place even as the vessel was flooding. One of the students who survived the disaster recalled the moments after the sinking.
"We were waiting and, when the water started coming in, the class rep told everyone to put on the life vests. The door was above our heads, so she said, 'We'll float and go through the door' and that's how we came out," the student said, according to Reuters.
Lee Joon-seok, the captain of the Sewol, is expected to learn his fate Tuesday, when the South Korean judges overseeing his trial are expected to announce their verdict. Lee faces the death penalty if convicted.