Crew of Doomed Sewol Ferry Drank Beer While Awaiting Rescue


At a court hearing on Tuesday, a crew member of the capsized ferry Sewol blamed the captain for escaping the sinking vessel and abandoning more than 300 passengers, mostly high school students, to die.

When the ferry’s chief engineer surnamed Sohn–one of the four crew members charged with criminal negligence–took the stand, a prosecutor asked him whether it was reasonable that the ferry captain, Lee Joon-seok, did not direct passengers to abandon ship. In response, Sohn said Lee had “abandoned his duty.”

While Sohn denied charges brought against him, stating that he “does not remember” the circumstances when the ship began to list, he admitted to drinking beer with other crew members while awaiting rescue, according to Reuters.

“We took a sip to calm down,” Sohn testified.

Grieving parents jeered at the testimony, with one of the family members in court reportedly asking, “Would you like a beer now, too?”

All fifteen crew members on trial, including the 69-year-old captain, had assumed it was the responsibility of the coastguard to rescue the passengers. Lee has also admitted in court that he did not make safety checks before the vessel took off, claiming that he was just following an established practice.

The captain and four crew members have been charged with murder, while the other eleven crew members have been indicted on charges of abandonment and violating a ship safety act.

Prosecutors allege that the accused crew members abandoned ship despite telling the students aboard the ferry to remain inside their cabins as the ship began sinking. The crew members were among the first to be rescued by the coastguard whereas about 250 passengers were found dead or missing.

Videos of the crew’s escape and students sitting in their cabins were also uploaded to YouTube weeks after the disaster, igniting rage across South Korea.

After further investigation, it was deduced that the Sewol ferry capsized on April 16 after it tried to make a sharp turn while en route from Incheon to the island of Jeju.

Photos via The Blaze