Accounts by the captain and crew of the ill-fated ferry Sewol that the ship had tilted too much to allow them to reach the cabins and manipulate the life boats have turned out to be completely false.
Photos taken from a Coast Guard ship that arrived first at the scene at around 9:37 a.m. last Wednesday show that they were lying.
Asked whether he attempted to manipulate the life boats, the second mate of the Sewol, who was arrested on Tuesday, said he tried, but it was too difficult to reach them. "We tried everything but kept on slipping and couldn't reach them," police quoted him as saying.
Captain Lee Joon-seok and other crew members all claimed that it was hard even to move around since the boat had already capsized.
But the photos published by the Korea Coast Guard on Tuesday show one rescue worker walking toward the lifeboats on the deck of the Sewol as soon as he boards the ship. He attempted to free the lifeboats starting from the back, but none of them would budge.
In a picture showing the rescue worker investigating the 10th lifeboat, a man believed to be a crewmember is seen running out of the wheelhouse. Clad in a blue work uniform, the man hops on the rescue boat that lies around 5 m away.
That flatly contradicts the account that it was hard to move around.
The rescue worker checked 12 lifeboats but was unable to free them from their casing. He kicked the 13th lifeboat casing and finally succeeded in releasing it into the ocean. But it did not inflate properly as it floated on the surface.
Even when the rescue boat arrived at the scene, no passengers could be spotted on the wide deck and roof. If the captain had instructed the passengers to abandon ship, at least dozens of high school students could have survived.
An official at the joint investigation team said, "In those circumstances any crewmember who was familiar with the ship could have ordered the passengers to leave, but it appears that none of them even bothered to think about the passengers."