Civilian diver dies in South Korea ferry searches

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Civilian diver dies in South Korea ferry searches
A boy prays near paper ships with messages to the victims of the sunken ferry Sewol at a group memorial altar in Seoul, South Korea, Monday, May 5, 2014. More than 300 people are dead or missing in the water off the southern coast in the disaster that caused widespread grief, anger and shame. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
Children pay tribute to the victims of the sunken ferry Sewol at a group memorial altar in Seoul, South Korea, Monday, May 5, 2014. More than 300 people are dead or missing in the water off the southern coast in the disaster that caused widespread grief, anger and shame. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
A girl reads massages written on paper ships for the victims of the sunken ferry Sewol at a group memorial altar in Seoul, South Korea, Monday, May 5, 2014. More than 300 people are dead or missing in the water off the southern coast in the disaster that caused widespread grief, anger and shame. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
A girl cries during a rally to pay tribute to the victims of the sunken ferry Sewol, in Seoul, South Korea, Saturday, May 3, 2014. Divers battled strong currents and wind Saturday to search unopened rooms in the sunken South Korean ferry for dozens of missing passengers, officials said Saturday. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
A girl prays in front of paper ships bearing messages for the victims of the sunken ferry Sewol at a group memorial altar in Seoul, South Korea, Monday, May 5, 2014. More than 300 people are dead or missing in the water off the southern coast in the disaster that caused widespread grief, anger and shame. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
Family members of passengers aboard the sunken ferry Sewol stand to protest delays in the search operation at a group memorial altar in Ansan, South Korea, Sunday, May 4, 2014. Divers battled strong currents and wind Saturday to search unopened rooms in the sunken South Korean ferry for dozens of missing passengers, officials said Saturday. The letters at cards read "Save children and call for thorough investigations into the ferry sinking." (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
A boy ties a yellow ribbon with a message for the victims of the sunken ferry Sewol at a group memorial altar in Seoul, South Korea, Monday, May 5, 2014. More than 300 people are dead or missing in the water off the southern coast in the disaster that caused widespread grief, anger and shame. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
South Korean President Park Geun-hye, left, boards a coast guard vessel at a port of Jindo, South Korea, to head to the site where the ferry Sewol sank in waters off the southern coast, Sunday, May 4, 2014. Park told families of those missing in the sunken ferry that her heart breaks knowing what they are going through, as divers recovered two more bodies on Sunday. (AP Photo/Yonhap) KOREA OUT
South Korean President Park Geun-hye, center, talks with a diver at the site where the ferry Sewol sank in waters off the southern coast near Jindo, South Korea, Sunday, May 4, 2014. Park told families of those missing in the sunken ferry that her heart breaks knowing what they are going through, as divers recovered two more bodies on Sunday. (AP Photo/Yonhap) KOREA OUT
South Korean President Park Geun-hye, right, consoles a relative of a passenger aboard the ferry Sewol at the site where the ship sank in waters off the southern coast near Jindo,, South Korea, Sunday, May 4, 2014. Park told families of those missing in the sunken ferry that her heart breaks knowing what they are going through, as divers recovered two more bodies on Sunday. (AP Photo/Yonhap) KOREA OUT
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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) - A civilian diver involved in searches for dozens of missing people from the South Korean ferry disaster died Tuesday, as other divers helped by better weather and easing ocean currents were picking up efforts to retrieve more bodies from the sunken ship.

The Sewol carried 476 people, most of them students from a single high school near Seoul, when it sank off South Korea's southern coast on April 16. Only 174 survived, including 22 of the 29 crew members. The sinking left more than 260 people dead, with about 40 others still missing.

On Tuesday, one civilian diver died at a hospital after becoming unconscious, government task force spokesman Ko Myung-seok said in a statement. He is the first fatality among divers mobilized following the ferry's sinking, according to the coast guard.

The 53-year-old diver was pulled to the surface by fellow divers after losing communication about five minutes after he began underwater searches, Ko said. It was his first search attempt, Ko added.

Despite his death, divers are continuing their searches Tuesday with the authorities believing most of the remaining missing people are in 64 of the ship's 111 areas. Ko said divers have searched all those 64 areas at least once and plan to revisit them again to look for more victims.

Darkness, floating debris and the maze of corridors and cabins onboard have made the search difficult, and divers entered the last three unopened areas on Monday night, Ko said.

Investigators have also made their first arrests of people who were not on board the Sewol when it sank. The three people arrested on Friday and Sunday are suspected of negligence in their handling of cargo on the vessel, according to prosecutors.

Civilian Diver Dies In South Korea Ferry Searches


In all, 19 people have been arrested in the investigation, 15 of them crew members accused of abandoning passengers. An executive with ties to Chonghaejin, the company that owns the ferry, was detained on suspicion of malpractice related to company finances.

Improper stowage and overloading of cargo is suspected as a possible reason the ferry sank. The ferry was carrying an estimated 3,608 tons of cargo, more than three times what it could safely carry. A ferry loaded too heavily could lose its balance making even a small turn.

The sinking has caused a national grief. As of Sunday 1.1 million people had paid respects at 131 memorial altars around the nation, according to a governmental funeral support committee set up for the ferry victims. Tuesday was a national holiday in South Korea for Buddha's Birthday, and more people are expected to visit those mourning stations.

Monday was also a holiday for Children's Day, but various events were canceled or postponed because of the ferry's sinking. The Sejong Center for the Performing Arts, run by the Seoul city office, canceled a handful of outdoor events and music festivals on the holiday.
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