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Crew member of capsized ferry denies abandoning passengers

2014/04/24 17:14

MOKPO, South Korea, April 24 (Yonhap) -- A crew member rescued from a capsized ferry on Thursday denied allegations that he abandoned passengers and escaped the ill-fated ship shortly after it showed signs of sinking.

The 57-year-old first engineer, only identified as his surname Sohn, is under suspicion of escaping through a passage reserved for crew members after instructing the passengers to stay put, officers said.

The investigation has also showed that a total of seven crew members, including Sohn, were among the first people to reach the shore on a life boat, they added.

"I did not intend to first escape (after leaving passengers)," Sohn told reporters after attending a court hearing at the Mokpo branch of Gwangju District Court in the port city of Mokpo.

"I first stood by and then went downstairs to judge the situation and escaped right before the ship started to totally tilt," Sohn added.

On Wednesday, prosecutors sought an arrest warrant for Sohn on charges of negligence of his duties and abandoning the passengers in violation of the Rescue and Aid at Sea and in the River Act.

"Seven engineers gathered at an engine room on the third deck where we were unable to know the overall situation of the ship," Sohn added.

All of the 15 crewmen in charge of driving the ship survived the deadly sinking of the 6,825-ton ferry Sewol in southwestern waters, which is likely to be recorded as one of the country's worst maritime disasters. At least 171 passengers have been confirmed dead, with some 130 others still missing.

So far, six crew members have been arrested, including the captain, Lee Joon-seok, who is accused of abandoning his passengers, most of whom were high school students on a field trip.

A 57-year-old first engineer, only identified as his surname Sohn, answers questions from reporters at a court in Mokpo in southwestern South Korea on April 24, 2014. He is facing charges of causing the deaths of passengers through abandonment. (Yonhap)

A 57-year-old first engineer, only identified as his surname Sohn, answers questions from reporters at a court in Mokpo in southwestern South Korea on April 24, 2014. He is facing charges of causing the deaths of passengers through abandonment. (Yonhap)

khj@yna.co.kr

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