Navy patrol boat sinks off Jeju after night crash

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Navy patrol boat sinks off Jeju after night crash

One sailor is dead and two are missing after a Korean naval patrol boat collided with a 270-ton commercial fishing vessel at about 11 p.m. on Wednesday near Jeju Island, military officials said yesterday.

There were no casualties among the fishing boat crew, with the vessel suffering only minor damages.

“We believe we will know the reasons for the accident since we have inspected the fishing boat and spoken with the sailors,” a military official said.

The high-speed naval vessel’s port side apparently crashed with a protruding section of the fishing boat’s port side while it was on its way back to shore from a routine patrol. The 150-ton patrol boat Chamsuri sank after the collision. It is roughly 110 meters (360.8 feet) under the water’s surface.

“We are looking into ways to pull the ship back up to the surface, but it will be difficult due to high waves and the ship’s depth,” a naval official said. The military is considering dispatching a deep-sea rescue vehicle to inspect the sunken vessel’s condition.

Authorities are questioning whether the Chamsuri crew properly followed safety regulations. The ship was equipped with radar that should have showed the fishing boat, which was twice its size.

Questions are also being raised over attention to safety on a second patrol boat that was following the first, since it was equipped with radar that should have shown the fishing vessel.

The second patrol boat rescued 28 sailors from the first patrol boat after the accident. The weather and sailing conditions were mild in the region at the time.

Jeju police are questioning the captain of the naval ship, surnamed Kim, 48, as well as the sailors who survived the accident, and they are planning to carry out a thorough investigation. Four sailors from the patrol boat who sustained injuries are receiving treatment at Halla Hospital on the island. One sailor, Noh Ga-bin, died in the hospital from uncontrollable bleeding after sustaining severe injuries.

The South Korean military dispatched several naval vessels to incident location yesterday to search for the two sailors who went missing shortly after the crash. A naval official said later yesterday that according to some of the survivors’ testimonies, the two men are presumed to have died and are still inside the sunken ship. There were 30 men aboard the patrol boat.

Both ships were roughly 8.7 kilometers (5.4 miles) away from Jeju Island when the accident occurred.

The fishing boat was immediately anchored in port after the collision. The patrol boat left on its patrol at about 8 p.m. and sank around 1:30 a.m., military officials said. Authorities also said that the patrol boat would have normally come back about 20 minutes after the accident occurred.

A naval spokesman said yesterday that Minister of National Defense Kim Tae-young and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Han Min-koo, had reported for duty immediately after receiving reports of the accident.

By Christine Kim []
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