Second Diver Dies in SKorean Ferry Search Operation

A civilian diver searching for bodies of the missing in the South Korean ferry disaster died Friday, according to officials.

Lee Min-sub, 46, is the second casualty among divers still taking part in the search operation inside the ferry that capsized on April 16 and killed around 300 passengers who were trapped inside. Earlier this month, a 53-year-old civilian diver also died.

Fellow divers pulled Lee to the surface after they heard a booming noise followed by a groan through a communication device, officials said. Lee, who was cutting open parts of the ferry’s exterior, had already lost consciousness, by the time he was transported to a local hospital by helicopter. He was later pronounced dead.

The exact cause of Lee’s death is not yet known, but it is suspected that he died from tension pneumothorax, a condition in which the amount of air in the chest increases excessively.

Park In-ho, the chief neurosurgeon at Mokpo Hankook Hospital, said an X-ray and CT scan of Lee showed that the diver’s lungs had been damaged by external injuries.

Six weeks after the Sewol’s sinking, divers have recovered 288 dead bodies, with 16 bodies still missing at sea. The proposal to pull the ferry to the surface has been rejected by the victims’ families because they worry that lifting the 6,825-ton ferry could damage the bodies.

No bodies were found since last Friday as the search is getting harder by the week, with divers struggling to navigate through the ferry because heavy objects like desks and cabinets are blocking their way. Only 172 people survived the disaster.

Photo courtesy of Yonhap News Agency