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Teen Survivors Tell of Chaos as South Korea Ferry Sank

  • VOA News

A mother and her daughter tie yellow ribbons with messages for missing passengers and victims aboard the sunken ferry Sewol in the water off the southern coast, at a group memorial altar in Seoul, South Korea, July 28, 2014.

A mother and her daughter tie yellow ribbons with messages for missing passengers and victims aboard the sunken ferry Sewol in the water off the southern coast, at a group memorial altar in Seoul, South Korea, July 28, 2014.

Nearly a dozen more students, who were among the 75 students to survive the Sewol ferry disaster, arrived at a local courthouse in Ansan, South Korea, on Tuesday for a second day of testimony against the 15 crew members who fled as the vessel sank off Jindo Island.

On Monday, six teenage survivors, whose names were withheld to protect their privacy, described how they were given repeated orders not to move from their cabins.

The students from Danwon High School near Seoul revealed how chaotic the scene on the ferry was, saying they wore life jackets and were helped by friends to float out and leave flooded rooms. One of them said she saw some schoolmates swept away by the waters.

Others testifying on Tuesday painted a similar scene of students helping one another as the ferry listed sharply and passengers and equipment were thrown around violently inside the cabin, while the crew repeated orders for them to stay put.

“Afterwards at the hospital, we met a grown-up passenger, who said the students obeyed the announcement like fools, while other people broke the windows to get out,” one student said.

The six girls testifying Monday were the first of 75 student survivors to give evidence in the trial at the Gwangju district court for two days, which has been moved to Ansan south of Seoul to accommodate the students.

Five of the students gave their evidence on Monday in the courtroom while one testified from another room via closed-circuit television.

Crew faces charges

The surviving crew members, including the captain, face charges ranging from homicide to negligence for abandoning the ship ahead of the passengers. Video footage of their escape triggered outrage across South Korea.

More than 300 people died after the ferry Sewol capsized on a routine trip on April 16, making it one of South Korea's worst civilian maritime disasters. Many of those killed were students from the same school on a class trip.

Only 172 people, including the 75 students, were rescued and the rest are presumed to have drowned.

Passengers on board the ferry had been told to stay on board as it was sinking.

The trial comes after businessman Yoo Byung-un, who heads the family that owned the sunken ferry operator, was found dead in June.

Last week, the country's forensic agency said it was impossible to determine the cause of death as the body was badly decomposed.

Earlier on Tuesday, Yoo Byun-un's driver, Yang Hoe-jung, turned himself in, which could potentially unlock the mystery of the man's final days after the disaster.

Yang is thought by authorities to have been with Yoo, in the days before his body was found by a farmer at an orchard on June 12.

The driver Yang was the last among a group of people close to Yoo who had been wanted for allegedly helping him elude South Korea's biggest manhunt.

Some information for this report provided by Reuters and AP.

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