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S Korea school vice principal hangs himself after pupils die in ferry accident

April 18 2014, 17:52

© Screenshot: YouTube© Screenshot: YouTubeThe vice principal of a high school whose pupils died or are missing in a South Korean ferry accident has committed suicide by hanging himself outside a large gym where families of the victims were staying. Police said that Kang Min-gyu, 52, had been missing since Thursday and appeared to have hung himself with his belt from a tree outside the gym, voiceofrussia.com reports.

Out of 475 passengers and crew on the ship, about 340 were students and teachers from the Danwon High School in Ansan, an industrial town near Seoul, who were on an outing to the resort island of Jeju.

They account for about 250 of those missing.

A total of 25 people, including 12 students, two teachers and three crew members, have been confirmed dead, with 179 people rescued and 271 still missing after a South Korean ferry capsized, local media reported Friday. The passenger ferry, the Sewol, which sank in waters off South Korea's southwest coast Wednesday, had 475 people aboard, including 325 high school students and 15 teachers who had been on the way for a four-day field trip.

The ship departed from South Korea's western port city of Incheon Tuesday night for the southern resort island of Jeju.

Among the rescued, 75 were students from the Danwon High School in Ansan, a Seoul suburb. Almost 70 percent of those aboard were from the high school.

Three large salvage ships arrived at the scene Friday morning to pull the sunken ship out of the waters. Hundreds of coast guard and navy divers were working at the scene, and scores of helicopters, airplanes and rescue ships were dispatched to join the search operations.

The ferry's sinking was believed to have been caused by a sudden turn in direction, according to the automatic identification system data offered by the South Korean Oceans and Fisheries Ministry.

Why the captain suddenly made the turn had yet to be known, but the change in direction was believed to have moved some 180 cars and trucks and over 1,100 tons of shipping containers on the deck of the ship to one side, driving the ship to lean to the port side gradually.

The rescued passengers said an announcement was made through the loudspeakers in the vessel warning them not to move as it would be dangerous. It was said to have raised the death toll as many passengers failed to escape from the vessel timely.

The ferry's regular captain who had been on leave was replaced by the substitute surnamed Lee, who the ship's operator Chonghaejin Marine claimed is a veteran with eight years of experience on the Incheon-Jeju Island route.

This is the second accident involving a Chonghaejin Marine vessel in three weeks. Another Chonghaejin ferry hit a 7.93-ton fishing boat on March 28 en route from Incheon to Baengnyeong Island in the West Sea. The 396-ton ship was carrying about 140 passengers and no injuries were reported in the accident.

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