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Teens helped each other escape sinking Korean ship

ANSAN, South Korea (AP) -- Students who survived the South Korean ferry disaster testified Monday they were repeatedly ordered by loudspeaker to stay in the sinking ship but eventually helped each other flee after their cabins were flooded too much.

The six girls testified Monday at a court session for 15 crew members responsible for the ship's navigation who face charges of negligence and failing to perform their duties to rescue passengers, with four of them facing homicide charges. The students from Danwon High School near Seoul revealed how chaotic the scene on the ferry was, recalling they wore life jackets and were helped by friends to float out and leave flooded rooms. They saw some schoolmates swept away by the waters.

Five of the six students spoke at the courtroom while the rest one gave her testimonies by video at another room. The court asked the media to not identify the teenagers to protect their privacy.

"We continued to wait but only came outside because the water filled the room so much," one student said. She said she heard a message blared from the ferry's loudspeaker that said "`Danwon High school students. Do not move!"

She also recalled how severely the ship listed, saying "The wall became the floor." Another student said "The kids all slid down to the window side . and luggage fell down."

The teenagers said they wore life jackets at the request of a broadcast announcement or at the recommendation of friends. They said they struggled to get out of the cabins due to tumbled furniture but also stepped on them to escape the rooms.

"When I was floating, the room's door was above my head. I came out of the cabin as a friend of mine outside grabbed my hands while another friend took my hip and lifted me up," one student said. "After we got out of the room, we lined up at a corridor and we told each another not to cry."

The April 16 sinking left more than 300 people dead or missing, most of them Danwon students who were travelling to the southern island of Jeju for a school trip. A total of 325 Danwon students were aboard the ship but only 75 survived, according to local officials.

The sinking, one of the deadliest disasters in South Korea in decades, has caused an outpouring of national grief and renewed scrutiny about public safety.

Survivors said they heard no evacuation orders and prosecutors argued a timely evacuation order could have saved more lives. Prosecutors say the 15 crew members abandoned the ship even though they knew passengers would be trapped and killed when the ferry sank. The defense has denied any collusion, saying the crew members were confused, injured and panicked.

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msmith6791 July 28 2014 at 11:51 AM

It's time for a high school class on how to deal with personal safety and escape/avoid disasters and build common sense.

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gsnailbanger July 28 2014 at 12:17 PM

Thats worse than the Titanic. Where were all the lifejackets and lifeboats and rafts. This is ridiculous and totally uncalled for. Whats WRONG with these people ???????????

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alspoolhall July 28 2014 at 1:09 PM

Approx. 37 yrs. ago, we took our little kids on the ferry to The Statue of Liberty. As we got underway & with only a few passengers on board, we looked for the life jackets but couldn't find any. When I asked a staff member, he stopped in the middle of his stride across the inside deck, looked at us like we were morons and looked up to the ceiling . . . there they were only 2 feet above our heads. You'd knock down the long boards and the vests would fall down and be reachable to all. There were NO signs anywhere to this effect.

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homeinsulation alspoolhall July 28 2014 at 2:34 PM

If you couldn't see them 2 feet above your head, then drowning may be part of the natural selection. Also, the captain probably came on over the loudspeaker and reviewed these details (as they have on ALL boats I've been on). Maybe not 37 years ago but today they do. I'd also like to think the crew would have told you to reach up 2-feet and grab a life preserver as well.

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eeverettm July 28 2014 at 1:44 PM

I guess it pays not to listen to those in authority. They aren't as smart as we think. The same thing happened at the twin towers. so, just use your common sense.

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homeinsulation July 28 2014 at 2:32 PM

I just want to add, this is what happens in Asian culture where you are taught to never question authority and not be defiant in any way..they complied with orders. Here in America the kids would be out on the deck and jumping off the ship long before it capsized....the greatest loss would be all the cell phones and iPads lost to water damage. We also don't overload our boats and we maintain them.

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mary homeinsulation July 28 2014 at 4:24 PM

Your readiness to stereotype is rather obnoxious. I have traveled all over the world and shoulder to shoulder with young people from Asia I would say that they have as much if not more common sense and aggression when compared to US kids. Please educate yourself by reading the following:
Additionally, your smug chauvinism that the US is immune from ferry disasters is inane. Check wikipedia for our less than stellar history in that regard.

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Frank Barr July 28 2014 at 4:45 PM

The reason the crew told those poor kids to stay put was they were afraid the moving students would further destabilize the ship and hamper the crews escape. Drown that whole crew that abandon all the passengers, coward puke bags

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mamarobes7 July 28 2014 at 6:01 PM

So Sad, all those poor students.

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Shirley July 28 2014 at 11:40 PM

That was such an awful thing. For all of those kids to die because of someone else's ignorance is unforgiveable. The people in charge have no business ever being in charge of anything. And of course, from now on, won't as they are being charged with all of the deaths, which is good. God rest the souls of those lost. May they forever rip. I think I heard on the news where some of them weren't found. That is awful.

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