Captain gave wheel to third mate before ferry sank: investigators
MOKPO, South Korea, April 18 (Yonhap) -- Investigators said Friday they have concluded that the captain of the ill-fated ferry Sewol gave the wheel to a third mate before the vessel began sinking off South Korea's southwestern coast.
Prosecutors and the police have been conducting an investigation into the exact circumstances that led the 6,825-ton ferry to capsize and sink off the southwestern island of Jindo on Wednesday morning.
The sinking is feared to be one of the nation's worst disasters as 25 of the 475 passengers, mostly high school students, have been confirmed dead, with 271 others still unaccounted for. A total of 179 passengers have been rescued.
"We have confirmed that the captain of the Sewol left the wheel to a third mate before the ship began sinking," chief investigator Park Jae-eok said as he announced the interim results of the investigation at the West Regional Headquarters of the Korea Coast Guard in Mokpo, 410 kilometers south of Seoul.
"We are investigating whether the captain left the pilothouse."
Coast Guard officials have said they may seek an arrest warrant against the 69-year-old captain, Lee Jun-seok, for further questioning.