Captain Charged; Teacher's Suicide Note Is Wrenching

'Spread my ashes over the ship sinking site'

By John Johnson,  Newser Staff

Posted Apr 18, 2014 2:41 PM CDT

(Newser) – The captain of the capsized South Korean ferry is in custody and charged with five offenses that could land him in prison for the rest of his life, reports CNN. The charges against 69-year-old Lee Joon-seok boil down to negligence, both leading up to the accident and after it. "Mr. Lee is charged with causing the Sewol ship to sink by failing to slow down while sailing the narrow route and making the turn excessively," said a prosecutor. "Lee is also charged with failing to do the right thing to guide the passengers to escape and thereby leading to their death or injury." (He didn't mention another prosecutor's earlier claim that Lee wasn't even at the helm when the accident occurred.)

Earlier, a high school vice principal who had been aboard the ferry but got off safely was found hanged in an apparent suicide, and the Wall Street Journal reports that police found a note with the following:

  • "Please hold me responsible for all of this. I pushed for the school excursion. Cremate my body and spread my ashes over the ship sinking site. I may become a teacher again in the afterlife for the students whose bodies have yet to be found."
The Journal also talks to a crew member (not one of those who is being sought by police) who says the crew did everything it could. "We didn't break the rules," he said. "We just couldn't do it. We were unable to approach the cabin where passengers were. The ship was just tilted too much, and so suddenly." The confirmed death toll remains at 28, with more than 270 missing, reports AP.

Lee Joon-seok, center, the captain of the sunken ferry, arrives at a court in Mokpo.
Lee Joon-seok, center, the captain of the sunken ferry, arrives at a court in Mokpo.   (AP Photo/Yonhap)
Students hold papers with candles as they pray for the safe return of their friends at Danwon High School in Ansan, south of Seoul.
Students hold papers with candles as they pray for the safe return of their friends at Danwon High School in Ansan, south of Seoul.   (AP Photo/Yonhap)
South Korean Buddhists pray for the victims.
South Korean Buddhists pray for the victims.   (AP Photo/Yonhap)
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