In a scenario that echoes the deadly Costa Concordia shipwreck, the captain of a ferry that sank off the coast of South Korea on Wednesday is facing a criminal investigation and is suspected of being one of the first people to abandon the doomed vessel.
Lee Joon-seok left the ferry on a lifeboat 32 minutes after reporting an accident, South Korean coast guard officials said.
The captain appeared on Korean television today.
“I am really sorry and deeply ashamed,” he told a mob of reporters while hiding his face beneath a gray hoodie. “I don’t know what to say.”
It’s unclear which of his actions could be considered criminal.
The Sewol ferry was carrying 475 passengers and crew when it capsized. Today, the government has said nine people were found dead and 179 were rescued, leaving about 290 people, most of them teenage schoolchildren, missing and possibly trapped in the vessel.
The 61-year-old captain allegedly escaped using the only one of the 46 life boats that functioned properly, according to a report by The Korea Herald.
Maritime police questioned Lee about the sinking for a second day and referred to him as a suspect. The previous day, he had been identified only as a witness.