South Korea ferry trial: students tell how they floated to safety

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South Korea ferry trial: students tell how they floated to safety

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Students who survived the South Korean ferry disaster described for the first time how they disobeyed orders and escaped to safety.

The Sewol ferry sank on 16 April near Jeju Island, off the coast of South Korea, with the loss of 304 lives, as many as 250 of them school children.

The majority of the children who died during the incident were from the same high school and on a school trip.

“We were waiting and, when the water started coming in, the class rep told everyone to put on the life vests,” said a student testifying at the trial of the ship’s crew.

“The door was above our heads, so she said, ‘We’ll float and go through the door’ and that’s how we came out.

“Other kids who got out before us pulled us out.”

The crew is charged with negligence and abandoning ship while the captain and three officers are accused of “homicide through willful negligence”.

One witness escaped through a stairwell to a hatch before jumping into the sea. Another quoted how passengers were repeatedly told to stay put, over and over again.

Others described how coastguard officers waited outside the stricken ferry for passengers to swim out rather than go into the ship to try and rescue them.

“They were outside. They pulled us (onto boats) but they didn’t come inside to help,” one said.

“We said to ourselves, ‘why aren’t they coming in?’.”