South Korean Ferry Sinking Investigation: Coast Guard Offices Raided In Ongoing Accident Probe

 @lukeydukeyl.villapaz@ibtimes.com on April 28 2014 11:11 AM
South Korea Ferry Briefing
A South Korea navy officer gives a briefing about a rescue operation to the family members of missing passengers onboard the sunken passenger ship Sewol, while showing an projection image of the ferry's structural layout, at a makeshift accommodation at a gymnasium in the port city of Jindo. Reuters/Kim Kyung-Hoon

More than a week after the Sewol, a South Korean ferry, capsized and sank off the southwestern coast of South Korea on April 16, leaving more than 188 passengers dead and 114 missing, officials raided a local situation room belonging to the country's Coast Guard on Monday.

Although investigations into the causes of the sinking and the country's emergency response to it are still in progress, the ferry’s captain, Lee Joon-seok, and several crew members have already been charged with negligence of duty and violating maritime law due to their alleged early abandonment of ship as the ferry sank.

As word of those arrests came, the official investigation expanded to include the South Korean Coast Guard and the Korean Shipping Association. On Monday, officials raided a Coast Guard local situation room, where they confiscated a number of documents and recordings as part of an inquiry into whether or not Coast Guard officials handled the situation properly when they first learned of it on April 16, Yonhap News reported.

A number of the Coast Guard’s actions are being investigated, including how the maritime agency responded to the first emergency call about the incident, which was made by an 18-year-old man on board the Sewol, asking for help.

The recordings are being analyzed currently to determine whether or not the Coast Guard properly fulfilled its duties, from the ferry’s first distress call to its eventual sinking.

Lee Joon-Seok Lee Joon-Seok (C), captain of the "Sewol," a South Korean ferry that sank at sea off Jindo, is seen here as he is sent to a prosecutor's office in Mokpo on April 27, 2014.  Reuters/Yonhap

The maritime agency received criticism for saving 20 Sewol crew members and its captain ahead of the ferry's passengers. In a video released by the Coast Guard on Monday, footage shows the captain being helped by first responders as the ship began listing sharply to its side.

Of the 20 crew members rescued, 15 were arrested by prosecutors, and they now face charges of negligence of duty and abandoning passengers on board.

Agencies overseeing ferry operations have also been in the spotlight as joint-agency investigations continue over the sinking.

Three officials from the nonprofit Korean Shipping Organization, which oversees ferry operations and operators, were arrested by officials on charges that they destroyed evidence ahead of a raid.

South Korean Prime Minister Chung Hong-won resignation Family members of missing passengers on board the sunken South Korean ferry Sewol watch a large monitor screen broadcast South Korean Prime Minister Chung Hong-won announcing his resignation at a makeshift accommodation at a gymnasium in Jindo April 27, 2014.  Reuters/Kim Kyung-Hoon

The sinking of the Sewol sent shockwaves throughout South Korea, and the massive investigation of the large number of agencies involved in the rescue effort led to the resignation of South Korea’s Prime Minister, Chung Hong-won, on Sunday.

As investigations continue, many families of the missing passengers gather and hold candlelight vigils as they wait anxiously for any news of the fate of their missing loved ones.

South korea Candlelight Vigil People attend a candlelight vigil to commemorate the victims of the sunken passenger ship Sewol and wish for the safe return of missing passengers, as it rains in Ansan, April 27, 2014.  Reuters/Kim Hong-Ji

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