Arrest Warrant Issued for Doomed Ferry's Captain
Investigators say he wasn't at helm when accident occurred
By John Johnson, Newser Staff
Posted Apr 18, 2014 12:30 AM CDT
Updated Apr 18, 2014 7:08 AM CDT
Lee Joon-seok, the captain, arrives to be questioned at Mokpo Police Station in South Korea Thursday.   (AP Photo/Yonhap)

(Newser) – This might better explain why the captain of the South Korean ferry that capsized has been so reluctant to face the public: Investigators say he wasn't at the helm when the ship ran into trouble, report the BBC and Reuters. "He may have been off the bridge," said one prosecutor, "and the person at the helm at the time was the third officer." Now an arrest warrant has been issued for the captain, 69-year-old Lee Joon-seok, who was also among the first people off the listing ferry. Arrest warrants were also issued for two other crew members, CNN reports. Another disturbing detail: The AP reports that an official on land instructed the ferry crew to begin preparing for an evacuation almost immediately after the distress call was made, but the captain didn't follow through with the order for another half-hour or so. More:

  • The presence of a less experienced officer at the helm could end up being a huge factor in the accident because the early evidence is pointing toward human error, reports the New York Times. One thing in particular investigators are looking at is whether the ferry made a "drastic" turn that caused it to tip.
  • The captain and crew are also under fire for an inept rescue operation, in which only a few of the ship's life rafts were deployed. About 270 of the 450 people aboard remain missing, and the confirmed death toll of 28 was expected to rise sharply soon.
  • Four large cranes are at the site of the sinking, with a fifth one arriving Sunday, all in a bid to lift the ferry from the water—an operation that could take "many days, or even longer," according to the Wall Street Journal. But officials say they won't rush into the salvage operation too quickly if it means putting possible survivors at risk.
(Also today, a high school vice principal rescued from the ferry was found hanged.)

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Showing 3 of 35 comments
Apr 18, 2014 11:27 AM CDT
At age 69 this captain should not be anywhere near a ship bridge. He should, instead, be sitting on a rocking chair enjoying his retirement while other younger captains take care of business. Look at what he's done at 69 a total of 271 people aboard the ship he commanded are missing and that is a lot of dead people to think about while he is in prison waiting for his own eternal evaporation from mother earth.
Apr 18, 2014 7:15 AM CDT
Two thoughts. If the facts are as reported, I have no problem with this captain getting life in prison for not ordering an evacuation. He is directly responsible for hundreds of needless deaths. Why are people such sheep? Even as a teenager, I would not have followed instructions to stay below. Survival instincts would have kicked in and I would have been up on the deck. Throughout my life, I have observed two types of people. Those who stand or sit around waiting for others to make the decisions. and those who take charge of their own destiny and act. Sad that apparently so few did on this day.
Apr 18, 2014 7:06 AM CDT
Don't read too much into this. It is common procedure for junior officers to "be at the helm of a ship", though actually steering the ship is not usually an officer's duty. Being the order giver, and perhaps even steering the ship is the primary way for any junior officer to gain experience and eventually become captain's themselves. So unless there was either a company or national policy that required the Captain to be on the bridge at that particular spot in the water, don't let the media hype run roughshod over the facts.