October 07, 2014 11:11
The April 16 ferry disaster was the result of a combination of disregard for safety regulations, poor helmsmanship and negligence by maritime authorities, prosecutors have concluded.
Ending a 173-day investigation on Monday, the Supreme Prosecutors' Office said the disaster is mainly to blame on excessive cargo that was not fastened properly, illegal redesign of the ship to carry more passengers, and negligent navigation by crew members in one of the country's most treacherous waterways off the southwest coast.
The tragedy was compounded by the Coast Guard's botched initial response that failed to save trapped passengers, most of whom were high school students on their way to a field trip to Jeju Island.
Prosecutors newly indicted Kim Kyoung-il, the captain of a Mokpo Coast Guard vessel that arrived first at the scene, on charges of dereliction of duty as he failed to make efforts to board the ferry to save trapped passengers and tell them to abandon ship.
They also indicted 13 Coast Guard officials at the vessel traffic service on Jindo Island for dereliction of duty. The center was unaware that the Sewol had entered its jurisdiction and failed to respond properly to the distress call.
A total of 399 people have been booked as part of the investigation and 154 were indicted.
Prosecutors formed an investigation team on April 17, a day after the ferry sank, to discover the cause of the accident, violations of safety regulations, negligence on the part of rescue workers, as well as corruption in ferry operator Chonghaejin Marine and the maritime shipping industry.
Many believe the accident points to larger problems in Korean society, which puts a premium on quick material gain.
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