The Citizen (KZN)

Dad recalls ‘hell’ of ferry sinking


- Ansan

The ferry sank live on television as the children on board sent desperate text messages to their parents – 10 years after South Korea’s worst-yet maritime disaster, families are still reckoning with the horror.

Jung Sung-wook’s teenage son was one of 304 people who died when the overloaded Sewol ferry capsized off South Korea’s southern coast on 16 April, 2014.

Almost all the victims were schoolchil­dren who obeyed orders to stay in their cabins, while the crew escaped.

One of the last text messages Jung’s son, Jung Dong-soo, sent was to his mother, telling her that the ferry had tilted to 450 – prompting his father to race to the scene of the rescue operation in a desperate bid to find his child.

When the senior Jung arrived at the school gymnasium in southern Jindo where survivors were being taken, he got his first glimpse of the chaotic rescue operation.

“It was literally hell – I mean, chaos. No one responded properly, the children were left alone and the parents came down and took the children home,” he said.

He had “a lot of regrets” about how the rescue effort played out, thinking that if things had been done differentl­y, more people could have been saved.

After it became clear his son had died, Jung became involved

The captain and his colleagues were first to leave the vessel. They were later jailed for their actions.

in the search for missing bodies and after that, in the campaign to salvage the vessel, helping to lobby the government to have the Sewol raised from the seabed and taken to shore.

Even in that process, “there were a lot of errors,” he said.

As the 6 825-ton Sewol began taking on water, the passengers were told by the crew to stay put – but the captain and his colleagues were first to leave the vessel. They were later jailed for their actions.

The disaster was blamed on a deadly combinatio­n of overloadin­g, an illegal redesign and poor helmsmansh­ip by what the court called an “incompeten­t” crew.

The rescue was also botched, many experts have said, but former coast guard chief Kim Sukkyoon who was tried on charges of mishandlin­g the rescue mission – and acquitted in November – recently said there was nothing else they could have done. –

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