World / Asia-Pacific

Prosecutor says 4 ferry crew members detained

(Xinhua/Agencies) Updated: 2014-04-21 12:28

Prosecutor says 4 ferry crew members detained

A boy holds a candle during a candlelight vigil to wish for the safe return of missing passengers from the sunken South Korean ferry Sewol, at a park in Ansan April 20, 2014. [Photo/Agencies]

MOKPO, South Korea - A South Korean prosecutor says four more crew members from a sunken ferry have been detained on allegations of failing to protect passengers. South Korean President Park Geun-hye likened what the captain and some crew members of the sunken ferry did as murder on Monday, vowing to force those responsible to take legal responsibilities.

Prosecutor says 4 ferry crew members detained

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Prosecutor says 4 ferry crew members detained

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Senior prosecutor Ahn Sang-don told reporters Monday that two first mates, one second mate and a chief engineer are also accused of abandoning the ship.

Ahn says prosecutors are considering whether to ask a court for a formal arrest warrant that would allow for a longer period of investigation. South Koreans can only be detained for 48 hours without a court-issued formal arrest warrant.

The ferry's captain and two other crewmembers were previously formally arrested on suspicion of negligence and abandoning people in need.

"What captain and some crew members did was like an act of murder that cannot be acceptable and permissible from a common-sense standpoint," Park said during a meeting with senior secretaries.

Park said it was an unthinkable act both legally and ethically for them to order passengers to stay put when they abandoned passengers and left the vessel.

Captain Lee Joon-seok, 69, was arrested on Saturday for five charges including negligence of duty and abandonment resulting in deaths. He ordered passengers to stay in place when he and other crew members left the sinking ferry. The captain was among the first to abandon the vessel.

Two sailors, including the third-ranking officer and the helmsman, were also arrested for similar charges with Lee.

Prosecutors applied the additional punishment law on specific crimes to the three crew members as they gave up the ship without making efforts to evacuate passengers first.

Some 40 officials of the ship's operator Chonghaejin Marine were prevented from leaving the country. Prosecutors are probing into whether there is any illegal act in running the ship, including overloading and illegal modification of the ship.

The 6,825-ton ferry Sewol departed South Korea's western port city of Incheon Tuesday night for the southern resort island of Jeju, carrying 476 people that included 325 high school students and 15 teachers on their way for a four-day field trip.

Death toll surged to 80 in a South Korean ferry disaster on Monday night as divers made intensive search operation inside the submerged hull, the Coast Guard said.

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