Recently released video footage from the South Korean Coast Guard shows the moment Captain Lee Joon-seok climbed from the sinking ferry and into a rescue boat while dressed in only a sweater and underwear, leaving hundreds of passengers onboard the ship to go down with it.
The footage surfaces as divers continue their search for bodies still trapped inside the vessel Sewol after bad weather hampered the past week’s efforts.
The confirmed death toll from the April 16 sinking is 188 as of writing, with 114 people believed missing. Only 174 people survived, 22 of the 29 crew members among them, according to the South China Morning Post.
Senior coast guard officer Kim Su-hyeon said that the bodies left on board are believed to be in 64 of the ships 111 rooms, and so far divers have only entered 36 of them.
Underwater video footage of the recovery operations released earlier this week showed the cloudy conditions under which divers searched. They had the harrowing task of pulling mostly children’s bodies from the wreckage, as 339 onboard were young students and teachers from a South Korean high school who were on their way to the resort island of Jeju for a field trip.
Searchers described that corpses so far discovered revealed passengers’ desperate attempts to escape the vessel when it capsized, according to Reuters. Media said that the discovered bodies had broken fingers, presumably when the children frantically tried to climb walls or floors to get out in their last moments.
“We are trained for hostile environments, but it’s hard to be brave when we meet bodies in dark water,” diver Hwang Dae-sik said in the report.
The vice-principal who accompanied the high school students made it out alive but committed suicide days later. He appeared to have hanged himself from a tree outside a gym in the port city of Jindo, where relatives of the people missing on the ship were staying.
The captain and crew on on the ferry came under fire when survivors revealed that passengers were told not to move as the ship began to capsize. Captain Lee Joon-seok told passengers to stay in their rooms and took a half an hour to issue an evacuation order, by which time, the ship was severely tilted.
All 15 people involved in navigating the ferry have been taken into custody and accused of negligence and of failing to help passengers in need.
South Korea’s Prime Minister Chung Hong-won announced his resignation early Sunday morning on television, taking responsibility for the slow initial response to the sinking vessel.
The Chinese embassy this past weekend confirmed that all four Chinese nationals onboard the ferry had died, as rescuers recovered the fourth body of a Chinese passenger, a high school girl, who had gone missing with the ship.
Watch: Captain Lee Joon-seok abandons sinking ferry