South Korean President Park Geun-hye on Monday likened the actions of the captain and some crew members of the sunken ferry Sewol to murder, as police made more arrests and divers continued searching the submerged vessel.
The captain of the South Korean ship, Lee Joon-seok, is already facing a series of criminal charges for his role in last week's sinking, in which at least 64 people have died and 238 others remain missing. Many of them are students and teachers on a field trip from a high school near Seoul.
"The actions of the captain and some of the crew are absolutely unacceptable, unforgivable actions that are akin to murder," Park said Monday in comments released by her office. She said she and other South Koreans were filled with "rage and horror."
Her strong words come after more details emerged over the weekend about the chaos and confusion aboard the doomed ferry as the disaster unfolded in the cold waters of the Yellow Sea off South Korea's southwest coast.
A radio transcript released by authorities suggested that passengers on the ship couldn't reach lifeboats to escape because the ship tilted so quickly that it left many of them unable to move.
As the search goes on, the actions of the captain and crew remain under scrutiny.
The captain was not in the steering room when the accident took place, according to police and his own account.
He said he plotted the ship's course, and then went to his cabin briefly "to tend to something." It was then, the captain said, that the accident happened.
A crew member, described as the third mate and identified only as Park, appeared in handcuffs with Capt. Lee at the weekend.
The third mate said she did not make a sharp turn, but "the steering turned much more than usual."
The captain and the third mate both apologized to the bereaved families.
Park is facing charges including negligence and causing injuries leading to deaths, authorities said. A technician with the surname Cho is also facing the same charges, they said.
The captain was one those rescued soon after the Sewol began to sink, violating an "internationally recognized rule that a captain must stay on the vessel," maritime law attorney Jack Hickey said.
"Pretty much every law, rule, regulation and standard throughout the world says that yes, the captain must stay with the ship until all personnel are safely off of the ship, certainly passengers."
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