Vice principal rescued from South Korean ferry found hanging from tree

Officials are also investigating as to why the ferry's captain was not in the bridge at the time of the sinking.
By Ananth Baliga  |  April 18, 2014 at 8:01 AM
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JINDO, South Korea, April 18 (UPI) -- The vice principal of Ansan Danwon High School, who was rescued from the sunken South Korean ferry, was found hanging from a tree, police said Friday.

Kang Min Kyu, 52, who was on the ferry but survived, was found hanging from a belt behind the gymnasium, where hundreds of parents have been awaiting news about their children who are still missing. Police didn't confirm if it was a suicide, and said that there was no note at the site.

Meanwhile, the rescue attempts by more than 600 divers continued to be hampered by rough weather, as divers are unable to enter the ship's cabin. Divers were able to open one of the doors but were unable to enter. The coast guard said that the chances of finding survivors now were "slim."

The death toll has risen to 28, with 179 people rescued. That leaves 268 people missing, most of whom are high school students, and there have been no survivors found since the day of the sinking.

"There are heavy currents in the area. So the vessel itself is not stable in the water. So you are, by default, putting divers at risk," said U.S. Navy Capt. Heidi Agle. The U.S. Navy is assisting the South Koreans in the search effort.

Investigators have begun questioning the ship's captain and crew and said that ferry's captain, Lee Joon Seok, wasn't at the bridge at the time of the sinking and had tasked the third navigation officer with steering the ship.

"It was the third officer who was in command of steering the ship when the accident took place," said state prosecutor Park Jae-Eok.

"Though surviving crews have different testimonies about the situation, we've been investigating the captain as he was suspected to leave the steering room for an unknown reason," Park added.

Kim Soo Hyeon, the chief of South Korea's Yellow Sea Maritime Police Agency said that it seemed like the ship had deviated from its planned course but did not appear to hit any rocks.

The 3600-ton salvage cranes have reached the area and will assist in raising the ship or moving it to another area with weaker currents. A fourth crane is scheduled to arrive soon.

The arrival of the cranes have added to the families despair, who fear the operation have moved from a search to a salvage effort.

[Bloomberg Businessweek] [BBC] [CNN]

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