The prosecution said Tuesday that the crew members of the capsized ferry Sewol should be held accountable for the fate of more than 300 dead or missing passengers.
During a trial hearing on the captain of the ferry and other crewmen at the Gwangju District Court, the prosecution unveiled detailed video clips from the April 16 disaster, denouncing the irresponsible actions of the indicted crewmen.
If the crewmen had taken steps to evacuate the passengers, they may have been able to save all of them or at least minimize the death toll, a prosecutor said during the trial.
“Students (on a school excursion) in cabins on the fourth floor could have escaped just by walking several meters,” the prosecutor said, but they became trapped due to the announcement from senior crewmen to stay in the cabins.
Sewol ferry captain Lee Joon-seok and three other sailors were charged with homicide due to willful negligence in mid-May.
Eleven other crewmen were also indicted, though prosecutors only lodged manslaughter charges against the four key suspects, including Lee.
They escaped from the sinking vessel without reportedly taking any appropriate measures to evacuate the students and other passengers.
The prosecution has vowed to prove the charges that the sailors’ actions were intentional and that their behavior caused the deaths of those onboard i.
Meanwhile, the national audit agency said earlier in the day that governmental negligence and corruption was found to have contributed to the tragic ferry accident in April that left more than 300 people dead or missing.
Releasing its interim probe result on the deadly ferry sinking, the Board of Audit and Inspection said that lax government regulation, disaster control failure and corruption by some government officials contributed to the accident.
The 6,825 ton ferry Sewol, overloaded with cargo, began to list after making a sharp turn and sank in waters off the southwestern island of Jindo en route to the southern resort island of Jejudo on April 16.
According to the probe result, the regional Incheon port administration authorized an illegal extension of the ferry while the government-commissioned ship safety inspection body, the Korean Register of Shipping, failed to carry out proper safety checks.
The Korean Shipping Association, a shippers’ association in charge of securing safe navigation, also failed to detect that the ill-fated ferry was overloaded and its cargo was not properly secured before its set sail, the audit agency said.
The Coast Guard also failed to prevent the tragedy by missing the crucial golden time for rescuing passengers from the sinking ship and botching its overall rescue operations, it said.
By Kim Yon-se and news reports