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S Korea: Students to testify in ferry trial
June 25, 2014, 4:52 pm

The captain of the ferry Sewol has been accused of negligence and abandoning the passengers [Xinhua]

The captain of the ferry Sewol has been accused of negligence and abandoning the passengers [Xinhua]

The 73 students who survived one of South Korea’s worst transportation disasters returned to their school in the Ansan district for the first time since the April 16 sinking of the Sewol ferry which was carrying them on a field trip to the southern resort island of Jeju.

They were accompanied by the families of the more than 250 classmates who drowned when the ferry, carrying 462 passengers and 30 crew, tilted to its side and capsized short of its destination.

All 15 crew members, including the captain, who survived the accident are currently on trial.

The navigators and the captain have been charged with negligence and failing to protect passengers and are standing trial. The prosecuting team has alleged that the crew jumped ship to save their own lives and ignored the pleas of hundreds of passengers trapped aboard the vessel.

On Tuesday, a district court ruled that the students will testify in the trial in a special proceeding from their home city of Ansan.

“This decision was taken in consideration of the students who live in the Ansan area and may have difficulty travelling such a long distance in the aftermath of the accident,” a court statement said.

Meanwhile, some of the defendants – distraught and admitting shame – have admitted they were partially responsible for the ferry tragedy but denied that they could have prevented it from capsizing.

The defense has argued that the crew panicked.

The South Korean government has also confirmed thatthe ferry was carrying cargo that was three times the recommended weight and placed a travel ban on the vessel’s operators, Chonghaejin Marine Co. Ltd.

South Korean media has alleged that that the Sewol‘s operators may have bribed port authorities to allow the extra cargo on board.

In late April, South Korean Prime Minister Chung Hong-won took responsibility for the slow initial response to the ferry disaster and resigned from office.

Source: Agencies

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