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Videos show teens’ last moments on sinking ferry

May 2, 2014

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Soon after the ferry began to tilt, high school students can be seen huddled below deck in a video, joking about the Titanic and taking selfies even as fear slowly built.

A second newly released video shows a frightening scene half an hour later, as the ship listed so severely that students, one of them weeping, were forced to sit on a wall instead of the floor.

Its emergence comes after the release of the first shaky video (http://apne.ws/R7iRbX ) — at times poignant and heartbreaking as the teens said last words to their loved ones — that was found on the cellphone belonging to 17-year-old Park Su-hyeon when his body was recovered after the ferry sank off the country’s southern coast April 16.

The boy’s father, Park Jong-dae, provided it Thursday to The Associated Press, saying he wanted to show the world the conditions aboard the Sewol as it sank.

The latest video was on the cellphone of a female student who died in the sinking. The girl’s father gave it to South Korean television network JTBC.

More than 300 people are dead or missing in a disaster that has caused widespread grief, anger and shame. More than 225 bodies, mostly from inside the submerged vessel, have been recovered. More than 80 percent of the victims were students from a high school in Ansan, south of Seoul, on their way to the tourist island of Jeju for a school trip.

The group of teens in Park Su-hyeon’s video alternated between bluster, attempts at humor and unmistakable fear. Video can be recovered from micro SD cards in cellphones even if the device is submerged.

Only one of the teens could be seen wearing a life jacket at the beginning of the clips, which started at 8:52 a.m. and ended, with a small break between them, at 9:09 a.m., when everyone appeared to be wearing them.

Some of the students struggled as they tried to buckle the life jackets. As the listing worsened they joked about “final commemorative pictures” and “defying gravity” by trying to walk on the walls.

“It’s like we’re becoming the Titanic,” one student said.

At 8:53 a.m., two minutes before a crew member on the bridge made the ferry’s first distress call, one student says: “Am I really going to die?”

Early on, a message blared from the ferry’s loudspeakers: “Don’t move away from your places and brace for any possible accidents.”

In subsequent announcements, passengers were again told to stay put, even as some questioned whether they should flee.

Another message from the bridge came at 9:08: “Never move away from your places.”

That warning came eight minutes after a Sewol crew member told a marine traffic official, “The body of the ship has tilted, and it’s impossible to move,” according to a transcript of communications with the ferry.

After the passengers were ordered to stay in their cabins, Capt. Lee Joon-seok took at least a half-hour to order an evacuation. It is unclear whether that order was ever relayed to passengers. Lee has said he delayed the evacuation because of worries about sending passengers into cold waters and fast currents before rescuers arrived.

Lee could be seen in a separate video released by the coast guard leaping from the ferry in his underwear onto a rescue boat while many passengers were still in the sinking ship.

He and 14 other crew members responsible for the ferry’s navigation have been detained on suspicion of negligence and abandoning people in need. Prosecutors are investigating whether stability issues related to too much cargo or a redesign that added more cabins to the ship contributed to the sinking.

After the students talked about being on the news and posting the excitement on social media, the fear in the cabin grew. Some said they felt dizzy, that their legs were shaking.

One student walked with his hands braced against the wall for balance as the vessel continued listing, making it increasingly difficult to move. Some warned their siblings not to take school trips unless they wanted to end up like them.

“We’re all finished. I have to leave some farewell words before I die,” one student said at 9:03 a.m.

The latest video was taken on a student’s cellphone between 9:37 and 9:41 a.m. The group of mostly female students in orange life jackets, their faces and voices digitally altered by the TV network, sat on a wall as the ship appeared to list nearly 90 degrees and talked of a helicopter they heard hovering above the ferry and of apparently seeing people jumping into the ocean from the ship.

At 9:38, the ship’s broadcast system announced: “Passengers, please check again whether your lifejackets are fastened!”

“I want to see my mom,” one student said as she wept.

“What are you talking about? We’ll all survive,” another said.

One of the last voices of these girls in the sinking ship: “Please rescue...”


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