The captain of a Coast Guard patrol boat who was arrested on Tuesday was found to have fabricated a public report on the April 16 Sewol ferry sinking, prosecutors said Wednesday.
According to the Gwangju District Prosecutors’ Office, his earlier statement that “the Coast Guard patrol had used megaphones to instruct the Sewol passengers to get out of the ferry” right after they had arrived near the vessel at around 9:30 a.m., April 16, was found to be false.
Later in the day, the prosecution asked the Gwangju District Court to issue a warrant for the senior Coast Guard official, to take him into custody on charges of official document forgery.
The 53-year-old suspect, surnamed Kim, was found to have torn out some parts of the public report in an alleged attempt to alter the initial records, prosecutors said.
Kim, as the chief of the Mokpo District Coast Guard’s patrol boat, dubbed the 123, has come under fire for failing to move swiftly to save more lives even though it was the first ship to arrive at the scene after the Sewol ferry began to sink in waters off Jindo Island, South Jeolla Province, on April 16.
The patrol boat had 13 rescue specialists on board at the time, including the captain. According to witnesses, however, the rescuers were busy picking up people who had jumped into the sea to escape the sinking ferry while doing nothing to rescue passengers stuck inside.
If the court approves the issuance of the custody warrant, the prosecution may additionally charge Kim with homicide due to willful negligence in a possible future move by the law enforcement agency to indict him.
The request for a warrant for the Coast Guard official came a week after all 13 members of the Vessel Traffic Service on Jindo Island were indicted on charges of neglecting their duty to properly monitor the ferry as it sailed nearby.
The death toll stands at 294 with 10 missing as of July 30 out of the 476 passengers of the capsized Sewol.
By Kim Yon-se (firstname.lastname@example.org)