South Korea indicts four ferry crew members for homicide

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South Korea indicts four ferry crew members for homicide
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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By Ju-min Park

(Reuters) - The captain and three senior crew members of a South Korean ferry that capsized in April killing more than 280 passengers, many of them school children, were indicted for homicide on Thursday, a senior prosecutor said.

Prosecutors also indicted the 11 other surviving crew members of the ferry Sewol on negligence charges. The crew has been under criminal investigation after they were believed to have escaped the sinking vessel before many of the passengers.

"The captain, a first officer and second officer and the chief engineer escaped before the passengers leading to grave casualties," prosecutor Ahn Sang-don, who is leading the investigation, told a news briefing.

Captain, Crew Charged With Manslaughter In Ferry Disaster

The Sewol, overloaded and travelling too fast on a turn, capsized and sank on April 16 on a routine journey from the mainland port of Incheon to the southern holiday island of Jeju.

Of the 476 passengers and crew on board, 339 were children and their teachers on a school trip. Only 172 people were rescued, with the remainder presumed to have drowned.

A month after the disaster, 281 bodies have been recovered but 23 people remain missing, even as rescue divers continue to search the vessel.

The government of President Park Geun-hye has faced sharp criticism for its handling of the disaster and the rescue operation, with an outpouring of anger over suggestions that a more effective initial response could have saved many more lives.

Prosecutors are seeking the arrest of members of the family that owns the ferry operator, and may also seek the extradition of a son of the reclusive head of the family from the United States, an official said on Thursday.

(Reporting by Ju-min Park; Writing by Jack Kim; Editing by Choonsik Yoo and Alex Richardson)

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