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Civilian diver dies in South Korea ferry searches

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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MARTHA May 06 2014 at 8:10 AM

the owner should be punished for causing pain in the heart of mothers, fathers, friends. it very bad. may God rest their soul and give them peace where they are now. Amen

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G-man May 06 2014 at 6:46 AM

What really gets my goat is that probably millions of people travel on this ferry, including officals from the government, yet noboby said a peep when try were squeezed inside the ferry all those times. If you get on a Chinese of Japanese subway, you know that its beyond capacity, yet you still squeeze in and take the risk. After an accident, all the Monday morning quarterbacks come out. Where were they to prevent this trajedy?

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skitzlpk May 06 2014 at 7:10 AM

These crew members they're arresting were probably from a more lowly societal segment who were clueless for the most part of their supposed role to aid the passengers before leaving the ship. The primary crew members, such as the captain & those on the helm, yes & those with nautical credentials but for the most part most of these crew members were normal people occupying space themselves loading & unloading cargo along with menial tasks.

Secondly, if anyone thinks the S. Korean gov't wasn't aware this ship sailed regularly in overloaded status, you're blissfully ignorant. Port authorities know every ton of cargo traversing their waters & every Port authority I know of is run by the prevailing government of that region. That government receives revenue from the tonnage of cargo moved from different ports.

Tragedies like this have to happen to forge an awareness & shame all of those involved in putting financial gain into it's proper perspective & allow real authority to rule.

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Mike May 06 2014 at 12:02 PM

It's sad that a diver was lost in a body recovery operation. I'm not going to offer an opinion based on conjecture and a lack of facts, but I was on a fire department dive rescue team prior to retirement. One needs to be very cautious about accepting the aid of civilians at emergency scenes. You have no way of knowing their level of competency, skill or training, short of a certification card. In the U.S., most dive shops won't sell dive equipment to anyone who doesn't have certification and can prove it. I don't know if the same can be said in foreign countries. In addition to being able to do open water dives, any diver going into a ship for body recovery needs to have training in dive rescue, shipwreck diving and training in use of specialty gasses, since compressed air has some limitations on how deep one can dive safely. There are lots of good intentioned people who want to help, but they can be a hazard to themselves and others.

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sachfoxo May 06 2014 at 7:43 AM

I can't believe this. How sad . May he rest in peace......a savior has gone . the south Koreans and neighbors need to stop putting people on those overloaded ferry's

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1 reply
katydid579 sachfoxo May 06 2014 at 8:36 AM

The ferry was not overloaded. That was not the cause of this tragedy. You seem to think because they are from a certain part of the world they don't have the mental capacity to understand something as complicated as engineering, yet look to American universities and see which engineering and medical students excel. Yup, Asians.

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2 replies
katydid579 katydid579 May 06 2014 at 8:37 AM

Sorry if you meant the cargo, not the passengers.

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bxnc katydid579 May 06 2014 at 9:07 AM

OK genius, the article clearly states that the ferry was carrying 3 times the amount of cargo that would qualify as safe. That means that it was overloaded by over 2 tons of cargo. And if you think that the shifting of over two tons of cargo cannot affect a ferries course than you're a bigger idiot than your paragraph displays. Unbelievable that you can begin that paragraph with " the ferry was not overloaded"! You should have your computer confiscated as soon as possible.

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samlupowitz May 06 2014 at 7:48 AM

Q. When will all the Asian countries stop having capsized ferry calamities? A. When their governments start enforcing laws having to do with weight capacity. Until then, this phenomenon will continue.

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chrlbrw1122 May 06 2014 at 10:48 AM

This guy is a hero in my book..Im a diver, and I know so many things could go wrong while diving on the best of days. May God have mercy on his soul and be with his family..

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diobuca May 06 2014 at 9:06 AM

That is why they should just up right the ship first. Then go in and recover the bodies.

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spldrtnbrt May 06 2014 at 9:17 AM

This is what im saying.... they are trying to find missing people but while doing that more people die that why they should just let it go and stop looking they cna save more lives.

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Intense Insanity May 06 2014 at 9:23 AM


I'd think that by now, even when they find more bodies, they have been underneath water for so long that the flesh (or what's left of it) would be easily ... um ... pulled off of the bones?!

By the time divers wrestle the body from where-ever it may be found back to the surface ... wouldn't it be somewhat demolished and/or destroyed???

I'm not hip on these things so I'd really like to know from someone that may know. It just seems like a very disturbing, gut-wrenching job!!

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