Captain dies after prohibited joyride

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Captain dies after prohibited joyride

An Air Force captain died from injuries he suffered when a naval boat capsized on a prohibited joyride four days ago, military officials said yesterday.

The captain, who was identified by his surname Lee, suffered severe lung injuries when the boat overturned in waters off Taean, a coastal town about 150 kilometers southwest of Seoul, after hitting an underwater rock in a foggy area on Saturday.

Of the 15 people aboard, one still remains unconscious and others had light injuries. At that time, the passengers, including five military officers, had a high school reunion with family members at a military resort near Taean, according to the officials.

“Captain Lee died of serious damage to his lungs at 1:47 a.m. today,” said a military official.

The accident has dealt a further blow to the military, which has been under intense public criticism for mishandling the March sinking of a warship by a North Korean torpedo attack that killed 46 sailors. General Lee Sang-eui, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, resigned his post after it was reported that he had drunk heavily the night of the sinking.

The defense ministry has launched a probe to find out how the rigid-inflatable boat designed for special naval missions was used for a personal outing.

On Tuesday, military investigators found that a Navy captain, who was also identified by the surname Lee, asked the head of a Navy special warfare unit near Taean to take the passengers on the prohibited ride.

The Navy captain, who visited the resort for the reunion but didn’t participate in the joyride, previously served as the chief of the naval unit to which the ill-fated boat belongs, military officials said.

The Navy captain was a senior to the incumbent chief of the naval unit at the Korea Naval Academy, the officials said.

“We are investigating whether the Navy captain, Lee, abused his power. If he is found to have acted with disregard to regulations, he will face severe disciplinary action,” the official said.

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