Off-duty captain warned ferry had stability risks

Associated Press
Relatives of a passenger aboard the sunken Sewol ferry look toward the sea at a port in Jindo, South Korea, Wednesday, April 30, 2014. South Korea's president apologized Tuesday for the government's inept initial response to a deadly ferry sinking as divers fought strong currents in their search for nearly 100 passengers still missing nearly two weeks after the accident.(AP Photo/Yonhap) KOREA OUT
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MOKPO, South Korea (AP) — An off-duty captain of the sunken South Korean ferry has told investigators that the owners ignored his warning that the ship shouldn't carry too much cargo because it wasn't very stable, a prosecutor said Wednesday.

The captain, whom prosecutors will only identify by his surname, Shin, was on vacation on the day of the accident two weeks ago that has left more than 300, mostly high school students, dead or missing and has caused widespread shame and grief. The ferry was piloted April 16 by a substitute captain, Lee Joon-seok, who is now being detained along with 14 other crew members who were involved in navigating the Sewol.

Yang Jung-jin, a senior prosecutor on the team investigating the sinking off the southern coast, wouldn't say when the captain warned the company and didn't know whether Shin made multiple warnings about stability.

A stability test report on Jan. 24 from the Korean Register of Shipping showed that the ferry became top-heavy and less stable after a modification of the ship from October 2012 to February 2013 that involved adding more cabins in some of the ship's floors.

Divers have recovered 212 bodies from the wreckage. They fought strong currents and floating debris inside the ship again Wednesday as they searched for 90 passengers still missing.

Senior prosecutor Ahn Sang-don, also part of the investigation team, said Wednesday that authorities detained two employees at Chonghaejin Marine Co. Ltd., the ferry's owner, on suspicions of accidental homicide stemming from professional negligence in connection with the sinking. Ahn wouldn't identify the employees.

Meanwhile, family members of high school students killed in the sinking dismissed as insincere President Park Geun-hye's apology for the government's handling of the disaster. They called for the quick retrieval of the missing. The ship carried 476 people, mostly from a single high school. Only 174 people survived, including 22 of the 29 crew members.

After several days of sluggish search efforts because of bad weather, divers on Tuesday retrieved more than a dozen bodies from the ship, which lies on the ocean floor, triggering a fresh outpouring of emotions by family members waiting for the return of their loved ones.

Park apologized Tuesday for the government's inept initial response to the sinking. Her apology came amid rising indignation over claims by the victims' relatives that the government did not do enough to rescue or protect their loved ones. Earlier Tuesday, she visited a memorial set up in Ansan city where the high school students are from. Some angry family members shouted at Park, demanded an apology and moved away condolence flowers sent by her and other top officials, according to South Korean media reports.

"What Park did at the memorial altar was like coming there to shoot an advertisement, surrounded by bodyguards," Yu Gyeong-geun, the father of one of the students, said Tuesday.

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Kim reported from Seoul.

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