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Ferry disaster: excessive load and renovation led Sewol to lose balance

Updated: 2014-04-21 21:01:26 (KST)
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Investigations are underway to find out what exactly happened before the ship sank.
New facts are being revealed as investigators delve deeper into the case.
For more on this, our Song Ji-sun joins us in the studio.
It seems like there were many factors that jeopardized the Sewol-ho ferry from having a safe trip.

It's now evident that the Sewol-ho ferry did not put safety first -- but instead it put profitability in first place.
The company has expanded the capacity of the Sewol-ho ferry to a level that compromised its ability to stay on balance during sail and too much cargo was loaded on the ship and the vehicles and containers were not properly tied down -- all things that could have contributed to the ship's sinking.
It was customary for the operator to do so, to make the most money from the 20-year-old ferry.
Take a listen from a former navigator who actually sailed the Sewol-ho ferry in the past.


"The Sewol-ho ferry should not be steered steeply. It has bad balance due to expansion of the cabin, and there isn't enough water in the ballast tank, which stablizes its balance because the operator wanted to load more passengers and vehicles."

The former mate said he even considered resigning from the company when he was assigned to sail the risky Sewol-ho ferry.
Another employee who works in the industry says it's commonplace that the operators load vehicles and containers that weel exceeds its capacity.


"It's not just a matter of the Sewol-ho ferry, all ferries load excessive cargo above its capacity. The operator is all about raking in as much money as possible."

These testimonies fall in line with the investigators' assumption that the cargo fell to one side of the vessel due to steep steering making the ferry to lose balance as well as the third mate and the navigator who confessed the Sewol-ho ferry steered much more than intended -- although their statements are yet to be verified.

Speaking of the crew testimonies vary and the information provided is puzzling, to say the least. And it's doubtful whether their statements are credible.

We have new information that puts what the captain of the Sewol-ho has reportedly told authorities, into doubt.
Did the crew tell passengers to evacuate from the sinking ship?
That's still being questioned but chances are they did not now this, according to analysis by a phonetics professor at Chungbuk Provincial University.
On Saturday, the captain told reporters that he DID tell passengers to leave the ship, but experts say his tone was relatively weak at the moment he said those words -- suggesting he was unsure about the integrity of what he was saying.
In the meantime, the first mate did say that he did hear an order from the captain telling passengers to evacuate, but it's not known whether that order was actually announced throughout the ship.

To verify their statements, the investigators have obtained new set of data, we hear?

The joint investigation team has acquired mobile messenger records from over 4-hundred people -- including the passengers, crew and personnel on board the ferry.
They're being pulled from Kakaotalk -- the most popular messenger application used by almost every Korean with a smartphone.
The investigation into these messages may shed some light on the timeline of events. Officials will also look into what kind of messages the crew had been exchanging but they were also communicating by radio walkie-talkies before most of them evacuated to the bridge of the ship and boarded the very first rescue helicopter and boats.
Some parents of the missing have also been claiming that they received messages from their children after the ship sunk but it's not confirmed whether they were from mobile messengers or text sms.

We hope the messages could provide us with new leads into the case. Now how's the investigation with the ferry operator been progressing?

The joint investigation team earlier in the day received arrest warrants for four additional crew members.
This comes after three crew members, including the captain, were arrested over the weekend. The investigation team has also imposed travel bans on 44 employees of the ferry operator, Chonghaejin Marine, including its president, the former chairmen of its parent firm, and his two sons, who are the biggest shareholders of the company.
Now the group, almost a conglomerate with extended companies is under investigation for various accounts, including massive funds stashed overseas.

All wrongdoings and corruption the must be revealed and all involved should be punished, like the President has said and public wants. Thank you for the updates, Ji-sun.


Reporter : song@arirang.co.kr

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