The third officer was in charge at the time the vessel began to list and sink, killing at least 281 of the 476 on board, which Ahn Sang-don, the prosecutor leading the investigation, called “gross negligence”.
"The captain, a first officer and second officer and the chief engineer escaped before the passengers, leading to grave casualties,” he continued. The four seafarers could face the death penalty if convicted.
Meanwhile, 11 other members of the crew have been charged with negligence; Kim Han-sik, head of ferry-owner Chonghaejin Marine, has also been arrested on negligence charges; Chon Young-Kee, the chairman of Sewol’s classification society Korean Register (KR) has resigned over the incident, as has South Korean prime minister Chung Hong-won. Further, a man identified only by the surname "Kang", the vice-principal of Danwon High School - which had 325 second-year students on board the ferry on a school trip – tragically hanged himself last month.
Investigations found that Sewol was loaded more than three times over the cargo limit, as was not carrying enough ballast water to keep it stable. Further investigations aboard sister ship Ohamana following Sewol's sinking found that 40 life rafts, as well as escape chutes and cargo lashing systems, were not functional.