Passengers aboard the doomed South Korean ferry couldn’t reach lifeboats to escape because the ship tilted so quickly that it left many of them unable to move, according to a radio transcript released Sunday.
“Please notify the coast guard. Our ship is in danger. The ship is rolling right now,” a crew member on the ship first tells authorities in a dramatic conversation that took place while the Sewol ferry was sinking.
An unidentified crew member on the Sewol talked to two different Vessel Traffic Service centers as the ship sank Wednesday morning, the transcript revealed. Someone on the ship contacted the traffic service in Jeju — the ferry’s destination — at 8:55 a.m. and communicated with it before the conversation switched to Jindo VTS, which was closer, about 11 minutes later.
“The ship rolled over a lot right now. Cannot move. Please come quickly,” the crew member says a minute after initial contact.
At one point Jeju advises the crew to get people into life vests.
“It is hard for people to move,” Sewol replies.
After the conversation switches to the traffic service in Jindo, the Sewol crew member says several times that the ship is leaning too much for passengers to move.
Sewol: “Our ship is listing and may capsize.”
Jindo VTS: “How are the passengers doing? …”
Sewol: “It’s too listed that they are not able to move.”
A short time later, another exchange takes place:
Jindo VTS: “Are the passengers able to escape?”
Sewol: “The ship listed too much, so it is impossible.”
The transcript may help answer one of the major questions about the capsizing: Why didn’t more passengers escape on lifeboats?
Many missing, scores killed
At least 64 people have died in the sinking, and 238 are missing, the South Korean coast guard said Monday.
Search crews brought more than a dozen bodies to shore Sunday morning, a solemn process pierced by screams and cries from the passengers’ families.
The wrenching scene came after four police boats arrived in rapid succession. The first carried four bodies. The second boat had three more. The third and fourth also carried three bodies each.
Each body was taken onto a stretcher on the dock in Jindo, draped in cloth. After an inspection, they were carried along a path guarded by police — who were also shedding tears — and past grieving family members.
Some relatives refused to accept the outcome.