MOKPO, South Korea — The captain of a sunken South Korean ferry was arrested Saturday on suspicion of negligence and abandoning people in need, as investigators looked into whether his evacuation order came too late to save lives. Two crew members were also arrested, a prosecutor said.
The disaster three days ago left more than 270 people missing and at least 29 people dead. The missing includes 236 students.
As the last bit of the sunken ferry's hull slipped Friday beneath the murky water off southern South Korea, there was a new victim: a vice principal of the high school whose students were among the passengers was found hanged, an apparent suicide.
The Sewol had left the northwestern port of Incheon on Tuesday on an overnight journey to the holiday island of Jeju in the south with 476 people aboard, including 323 students from Danwon High School in Ansan. It capsized within hours of the crew making a distress call to the shore a little before 9 a.m. Wednesday.
Investigators said the accident came at a point where the ship had to make a turn, and prosecutor Park Jae Eok said investigators were looking at whether the third mate ordered a turn that was so sharp that it caused the vessel to list.
The sharp turn came between 8:48 a.m. and 8:49 a.m., but it's not known whether it was done voluntarily or because of some external factor, said Nam Jae Heon, a spokesman for the Maritime Ministry.
Another angle being probed is the role of the captain, 68-year-old Lee Joon Seok.
Lee faces five charges including negligence of duty and violation of maritime law, according to the Yonhap news agency.
Police said the vice principal who was found hanged from a tree on Jindo, an island near the sunken ship where survivors have been housed, had been rescued from the ferry.
Identified as Kang Min Kyu, he was the leader of the students traveling on a school excursion. In his suicide note, Kang said he felt guilty for surviving and wanted to take responsibility for what happened because he had led the trip, according to police.
He asked that his body be cremated and the ashes scattered where the ferry went down.
The country's last major ferry disaster was in 1993, when 292 people were killed.