A crew member of the sunken ferry Sewol blamed the captain Tuesday for abandoning passengers and escaping the ship that went down off the country's southwest coast in mid-April, claiming more than 300 lives.
The first engineer surnamed Sohn, one of the four crew members charged with abandonment and violation of a ship safety act in connection with the deadly sinking, leveled the criticism during a court hearing held at a district court in this southern city.
Asked by a prosecutor whether it was reasonable for captain Lee Joon-seok to have not told the passengers, mostly high school students on a school excursion, to abandon ship, Sohn said Lee had "abandoned his duty."
The 69-year-old skipper and the four crew members have been charged with murder. If convicted, they could face the death penalty. The other 11 crew members have been indicted on charges of abandonment and violating a ship safety act.
At the hearing, Sohn denied charges brought against him, saying that he "does not remember" the circumstances when the ship began tilting.
Sohn, however, admitted to having had beer with other crew members while awaiting rescue, saying that the drinks were "to calm down the excitement."
Prosecutors allege that the sailors left the ship as it was sinking while telling passengers to stay inside their cabins. The sailors were among the first to be rescued by Coast Guard personnel sent to the accident site.
The Sewol ferry capsized off southwestern South Korea on April 16 after making a sharp turn. So far, 294 people, mostly high school students, have been found dead, with 10 missing and presumed dead. (Yonhap)