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South Korea ferry disaster: Crew say rescue was coast guard's job

Published on Jun 17, 2014 3:37 PM
Maritime police search for missing passengers in front of the South Korean ferry "Sewol" which sank at the sea off Jindo in this April 16, 2014, file photo. The surviving crew of the Sewol argued on Tuesday that once the coast guard reached the site, it was up to them to rescue the passengers, not the crew. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

GWANGJU, South Korea (Reuters) - The surviving crew of a South Korean ferry that sank in April, killing more than 300 people and sparking a nationwide outpouring of grief argued on Tuesday that it was up to the coast guard to rescue the passengers, not the crew.

Lawyers for the 15, who face charges ranging from homicide to negligence, made the case that once coast guard rescuers had reached the sharply listing vessel, the crew's job was over.

"The crew share the belief that they thought the coast guard should be fully capable of the rescue because there was a distress call and they arrived and they were the ones with professional skills and equipment," lawyer Im Ju Young told the court on the second day of the trial in Gwangju, the closest city to the scene of the disaster.

The Sewol, overloaded and travelling too fast on a turn, sank off the south-west coast on April 16 on a routine journey from Incheon on the mainland to the southern holiday island of Jeju. Of the 476 passengers and crew on board, 339 were children and teachers from the same school on the outskirts of Seoul. Only 172 people were rescued and the remainder are all presumed to have drowned.