South Korea Ferry Vice Principal Commits Suicide in Wake of Disaster

Friday, 18 Apr 2014 11:21 AM

By Nick Sanchez

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A 52-year-old vice principal who survived the South Korea ferry disaster this week has committed suicide, local police said Friday.

Reuters reported that Kang Min-Gyu went missing on Thursday, and was found hanged from a tree by his own belt the next day. He was found in the port city of Jindo, where relatives and survivors of the 476 ferry passengers and crew wait for news of the 274 still missing.

Min-Gyu was reportedly aboard the ferry that was escorting students, many of whom attended Danwon High School in Seoul, on a holiday trip. He was among 174 who were rescued from the sinking ship "Sewol" as it went down in the Yellow Sea early Wednesday. In the suicide note he left, he expressed his guilt for being alive while so many of his students were not, and asked that his body be cremated and spread at the disaster site.

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On the third day of the South Korean ferry rescue operations, hopes that any of the missing passengers will be found alive have diminished significantly. The official death count so far remains at 28.

South Korean prosecutors also asked the court Friday to issue arrest warrants for the ship captain and two other crew members. The 69-year-old captain expressed his shame Thursday after coming under fire for allegedly being among the first to abandon the ship.

According to The Associated Press, investigators are now focusing on the sharp turn the ferry took just before the ship began listing, as well as the evacuation orders issued over the ship's loud speakers.

Senior prosecutor Yang Jung-Jin said Captain Lee Joon-Seok was not at the helm at the time the ship began tilting, but it was instead likely being steered by a 25-year-old female mate and a 55-year-old helmsman. He said the captain was required by law to be on the bridge as the ship passed through an area with many islands clustered together.

A ship-to-shore radio exchange and interviews show that the captain delayed evacuation for a half hour after transportation officials suggested they might have to evacuate.

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