Trawler sinks off of Ulsan; one dead, 10 missing

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Trawler sinks off of Ulsan; one dead, 10 missing

A 14-crew fishing vessel sank off the coast of Ulsan yesterday after sailing despite a high seas watch being in effect, leading to ongoing rescue efforts with one death and 10 missing.

Three have been rescued so far, including the ship’s engineer, the Coast Guard stated Monday.

The 139-ton trawler from Busan sank in waters about 24 kilometers (15 miles) off the coast of Ulsan at around 2 a.m.

The vessel departed from Busan harbor on Christmas Day at 3:30 p.m. despite winds blowing at 12-16 meters per second (26-35 miles per hour) and waves rising two to four meters (6 to 12 feet), according to the Coast Guard.

Early in the morning yesterday, as the crewman struggled to pull up a loaded fishnet, a large wave came crashing down over the boat. Water flooded the engine room and the boat capsized and went under.

Fisherman in the vicinity and the Coast Guard were alerted by a distress flare set off by Hwang Su-seok, the 48-year-old engineer of the ship, who braved the icy waters and was rescued along with crewmen 49-year-old Kim Yeong-geun and 46-year-old Kim Jong-in.

Hwang stated, “I was sleeping in the cabin when I came out after hearing shouts, and the boat was already tipped. After I fired the distress flare, I jumped off the boat right before it sank.”

While the air temperature was minus 1.4-1.7 degrees Celsius (29 degrees Fahrenheit), the water temperature was minus 15.1 degrees Celsius.

An adult can last about 30 minutes wearing a swim suit in seawater at a temperature of 10 degrees Celsius.

While Hwang and crewman Kim Jong-in were rescued by fishing vessels within an hour, Kim Yeong-geun was rescued by the Coast Guard after one hour and 22 minutes and stated, “With the thought that I had to survive in the icy waters, I frantically kept moving my body.”

Another crewman, the ship’s cook, 53-year-old Kwon Jong-seok, was discovered too late at one hour and 40 minutes, already deceased.

The 10 missing include the captain of the vessel, 62-year-old Shin Cheol, and the Coast Guard continues to search with the assistance of the Navy and fishing vessels.

Meanwhile, Captain Shin’s wife said sobbing, “My husband left saying ‘I’ll come back.’ His cellphone still signals, so why isn’t he picking up the phone?”


By We Sung-wook [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]

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