3 dead, 1 missing after boat capsizes off Jeju
The Coast Guard received a report around 6:05 a.m. that a 24-ton boat was sinking in waters 63 kilometers (39 miles) southwest of Mara Island, an island south of Jeju. It was carrying 14 crewmen, eight of whom are Korean nationals and six Indonesians.
A patrol vessel arrived at the scene at around 7:55 p.m. and found four crewmen on a life raft, and nine others floating either in life rings or with life vests, according to the Coast Guard.
Ten of the crew were rescued while three others were found unconscious and brought to a nearby hospital where they were later pronounced dead. All three were Korean nationals in their 60s.
One of the dead crew members was confirmed to be the captain of the boat. The other 10 crew members were being treated for hypothermia in a nearby hospital in Jeju as of Monday.
One crew member was still missing as of 8 p.m. press time Monday.
The fishing boat set out to sea on Nov. 1 from Tongyeong Port, South Gyeongsang, and was scheduled to return back to the same port today.
The Coast Guard said they will further investigate to find the exact cause of the accident.
“Although the cause of the accident remains unclear, we heard from one of the crewmen who survived that the fishing boat capsized after being hit by a huge wave,” an official from the Coast Guard said. “The crewmen should always check the weather conditions in the winter time. Also, they should work together rather than independently in order to secure the safety.”
A 39-year-old engineer of the boat identified only by the surname Lee said he felt really sorry for his three dead colleagues who he had worked with for over 10 years.
“It was very windy and the waves were very high at the time. A large amount of water came into the ship in no time. I thought I was going to die like that,” Lee said. “The life raft didn’t work properly when I first tried to operate it. Since I was swept away by the huge waves, I didn’t know that the lift raft was launched later. So I wore a life vest and was rescued by the Coast Guard when I was holding a life ring outside of the boat.”
This is the second fatal maritime accident in waters off Jeju in less than a week. On Nov. 19, a 29-ton fishing boat carrying 12 crewmen caught fire and capsized. One person was confirmed dead and 11 others remain missing.
The Coast Guard said they are simultaneously conducting the search operations for the 11 crewmen from the incident last week and the one missing crew member from Monday’s accident.
BY CHEA SARAH [firstname.lastname@example.org]