Warrants handed out to 4 Sewol crewmen

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Warrants handed out to 4 Sewol crewmen

The Mokpo branch of the Gwangju District Court granted pre-trial detention warrants requested by the joint prosecution and police investigation team late Saturday against four crew members of the capsized Sewol ferry, citing that the suspects posed a flight risk and could collude to destroy evidence in the probe.

The four disgraced crew members - including two helmsman, one surnamed Cho, 59, and another Chun - are accused of breaking the seafarers’ code of conduct that states that the crew must help passengers onboard get to safety.

The Sewol was carrying 476 passengers on April 16, the morning of the accident, which has so far left 188 dead and 114 unaccounted for.

With the court’s approval of the pre-trial detention for the four, all 15 cabin attendants of the doomed Sewol involved in the steering of the vessel have been put behind bars and stand accused of manslaughter. They are currently awaiting further questioning by the prosecution.

Their detention comes after Captain Lee Jun-seok and 10 other crew members were also placed in pre-trial detention on charges that they abandoned the ship, leaving behind hundreds of passengers, mostly high school students on a four-day trip to Jeju Island, as the 6,825-ton ferry began to list and subsequently capsize.

The crew members’ misconduct during the pivotal moments leading up to the accident sparked tremendous public outrage, with President Park Geun-hye likening Lee’s behavior to an “act of murder.”

Authorities even suspect that the 15 crew members took off their uniforms and changed into civilian clothing to remain anonymous in the rescue boats.

The Sewol crew is accused of doing nothing for the passengers in their care while waiting for rescue boats to come to the aid of the doomed ship.

BY KANG JIN-KYU [jkkang2@joongang.co.kr]

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