2nd private company diver dies in ferry search

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2nd private company diver dies in ferry search

A 47-year-old diver working for a private contractor died yesterday while on a search mission at the Sewol ferry disaster scene in Jindo, South Jeolla, the emergency countermeasure headquarters said yesterday.

The fatality is the second among divers working at the scene.

According to the headquarters, the diver, who was identified only by his surname Lee, was brought up to the surface after the sound of a crash was heard.

First aid was administered to Lee, who was unconscious when he was pulled out of the water. He was then taken to Mokpo Hankook Hospital in Mokpo, South Jeolla, by helicopter, but was pronounced dead about 15 minutes after arrival.

Park In-ho, the director of the hospital, held a briefing after the accident.

He said, “[Lee] did not have external wounds except for a bruise on his right shoulder, and we suspect he died of lung damage due to strong external pressure.”

The director added, “People who came to the hospital with him said they heard an explosion, but we cannot conclude the exact cause of death without knowing the situation.”

It has been a month and half since the Sewol sunk with more than 300 passengers on board. Divers have recovered the corpses of 288 passengers so far, and 16 people are still missing.

Much of the ferry has been searched, but cabins at the stern of the ferry’s fourth floor are currently inaccessible because of unidentified obstacles.

Since Thursday, divers at the scene have been trying to remove the windows of this part of the ship to search for additional bodies.

The emergency countermeasure headquarters held an additional briefing later yesterday.

“Lee dived at 1:50 p.m. to cut off the outer hull panel of the ferry’s fourth floor and the accident occurred at 2:20 p.m., when they were wrapping up the work,” said Ko Myeong-seok, a spokesman from the headquarters.

When asked if Lee could have been electrocuted by Oxy-Arc equipment, the cutting device that was being used to enter the ship, Ko said, “We will investigate this further.”

The first diver fatality of the Sewol was Lee Gwang-ok, a 53-year-old who became unconscious after diving for about five minutes on May 6.

BY KIM BONG-MOON [bongmoon@joongang.co.kr]

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