Captain of sunken SKorean ferry, 2 crew arrested

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Lee Joon-seok, third from left, the captain of the ferry Sewol that sank off South Korea, and two crew members prepare to leave a court which issued their arrest warrant in Mokpo, south of Seoul, South Korea, Saturday, April 19, 2014. The captain of the sunken ferry, leaving more than 300 missing or dead, was arrested early Saturday on suspicion of negligence and abandoning people in need. Two crew members also were taken into custody, including a mate who a prosecutor said was steering in challenging waters unfamiliar to her when the accident occurred. (AP Photo/Yonhap) KOREA OUT

Lee Joon-seok, third from left, the captain of the ferry Sewol that sank off South Korea, and two crew members prepare to leave a court which issued their arrest warrant in Mokpo, south of Seoul, South Korea, Saturday, April 19, 2014. The captain of the sunken ferry, leaving more than 300 missing or dead, was arrested early Saturday on suspicion of negligence and abandoning people in need. Two crew members also were taken into custody, including a mate who a prosecutor said was steering in challenging waters unfamiliar to her when the accident occurred. (AP Photo/Yonhap) KOREA OUT

Lee Joon-seok, center, the captain of the sunken ferry Sewol in the water off the southern coast, leaves a court which issued his arrest warrant in Mokpo, south of Seoul, South Korea, Saturday, April 19, 2014. The investigation into South Korea’s ferry disaster focused on the sharp turn it took just before it began listing and on the possibility that a quicker evacuation order by the captain could have saved lives, officials said Friday, as rescuers struggled to find some 270 people still missing and feared dead. (AP Photo/Yonhap) KOREA OUT

Lee Joon-seok the captain of the sunken ferry Sewol in the water off the southern coast, leaves a court which issued his arrest warrant in Mokpo, south of Seoul, South Korea, Saturday, April 19, 2014. The investigation into South Korea’s ferry disaster focused on the sharp turn it took just before it began listing and on the possibility that a quicker evacuation order by the captain could have saved lives, officials said Friday, as rescuers struggled to find some 270 people still missing and feared dead. (AP Photo/Yonhap) KOREA OUT

Oil-spill is seen in the area where ferry Sewol sunk in the water off the southern coast near Jindo, South Korea, Saturday, April 19, 2014. Rescuers will be trying to recover at least some of the bodies believed trapped on board. A diver says he saw three bodies but was unable to recover them. (AP Photo/Yonhap) KOREA OUT

South Korean rescue team members try to search missing passengers of the sunken ferry Sewol near buoys which were installed to mark the area in the water off the southern coast near Jindo, South Korea, Saturday, April 19, 2014. The captain of the sunken South Korean ferry was arrested Saturday on suspicion of negligence and abandoning people in need, as investigators looked into whether his evacuation order came too late to save lives. Two crew members were also arrested, a prosecutor said. (AP Photo/Yonhap) Korea Out

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MOKPO, South Korea (AP) — The captain of the ferry that sank off South Korea, leaving more than 300 missing or dead, was arrested Saturday on suspicion of negligence and abandoning people in need. Two crew members also were taken into custody, including a rookie third mate who a prosecutor said was steering in challenging waters unfamiliar to her when the accident occurred.

The number of confirmed dead rose to 32 when three bodies were found in the murky water near the ferry, said coast guard spokesman Kim Jae-in. Divers know at least some bodies remain inside the vessel, but they have been unable to get inside.

The ferry’s captain, Lee Joon-seok, 68, was arrested along with one of the Sewol’s three helmsmen and the 25-year-old third mate, prosecutors said.

“I am sorry to the people of South Korea for causing a disturbance and I bow my head in apology to the families of the victims,” Lee told reporters Saturday morning as he left the Mokpo Branch of Gwangju District Court to be jailed. But he defended his much-criticized decision to wait about 30 minutes before ordering an evacuation.

“At the time, the current was very strong, the temperature of the ocean water was cold, and I thought that if people left the ferry without (proper) judgment, if they were not wearing a life jacket, and even if they were, they would drift away and face many other difficulties,” Lee said. “The rescue boats had not arrived yet, nor were there any civilian fishing ships or other boats nearby at that time.”

The Sewol sank off South Korea’s southern coast Wednesday with 476 people aboard, most of them students on holiday from a single high school. More than 270 people are still missing, and most are believed to be trapped inside the 6,852-ton vessel.

By the time the evacuation order was issued, the ship was listing at too steep an angle for many people to escape the tight hallways and stairs inside. Several survivors told The Associated Press that they never heard any evacuation order.

Divers fighting strong currents and rain have been unable to get inside the ferry. A civilian diver saw three bodies inside the ship Saturday but was unable to break the windows, said Kwon Yong-deok, a coast guard official. Hundreds of civilian, government and military divers were involved in the search Saturday.

Senior prosecutor Yang Jung-jin told reporters that the third mate was steering the ship Wednesday morning as it passed through an area with lots of islands clustered close together and fast currents. Investigators said the accident came at a point where the ship had to make a turn, and prosecutor Park Jae-eok said investigators were looking at whether the third mate ordered a turn so

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Captain of sunken SKorean ferry, 2 crew arrested

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Lee Joon-seok, third from left, the captain of the ferry Sewol that sank off South Korea, and two crew members prepare to leave a court which issued their arrest warrant in Mokpo, south of Seoul, South Korea, Saturday, April 19, 2014. The captain of the sunken ferry, leaving more than 300 missing or dead, was arrested early Saturday on suspicion of negligence and abandoning people in need. Two crew members also were taken into custody, including a mate who a prosecutor said was steering in challenging waters unfamiliar to her when the accident occurred. (AP Photo/Yonhap) KOREA OUT

Lee Joon-seok, third from left, the captain of the ferry Sewol that sank off South Korea, and two crew members prepare to leave a court which issued their arrest warrant in Mokpo, south of Seoul, South Korea, Saturday, April 19, 2014. The captain of the sunken ferry, leaving more than 300 missing or dead, was arrested early Saturday on suspicion of negligence and abandoning people in need. Two crew members also were taken into custody, including a mate who a prosecutor said was steering in challenging waters unfamiliar to her when the accident occurred. (AP Photo/Yonhap) KOREA OUT

Lee Joon-seok, center, the captain of the sunken ferry Sewol in the water off the southern coast, leaves a court which issued his arrest warrant in Mokpo, south of Seoul, South Korea, Saturday, April 19, 2014. The investigation into South Korea’s ferry disaster focused on the sharp turn it took just before it began listing and on the possibility that a quicker evacuation order by the captain could have saved lives, officials said Friday, as rescuers struggled to find some 270 people still missing and feared dead. (AP Photo/Yonhap) KOREA OUT

Lee Joon-seok the captain of the sunken ferry Sewol in the water off the southern coast, leaves a court which issued his arrest warrant in Mokpo, south of Seoul, South Korea, Saturday, April 19, 2014. The investigation into South Korea’s ferry disaster focused on the sharp turn it took just before it began listing and on the possibility that a quicker evacuation order by the captain could have saved lives, officials said Friday, as rescuers struggled to find some 270 people still missing and feared dead. (AP Photo/Yonhap) KOREA OUT

Oil-spill is seen in the area where ferry Sewol sunk in the water off the southern coast near Jindo, South Korea, Saturday, April 19, 2014. Rescuers will be trying to recover at least some of the bodies believed trapped on board. A diver says he saw three bodies but was unable to recover them. (AP Photo/Yonhap) KOREA OUT

South Korean rescue team members try to search missing passengers of the sunken ferry Sewol near buoys which were installed to mark the area in the water off the southern coast near Jindo, South Korea, Saturday, April 19, 2014. The captain of the sunken South Korean ferry was arrested Saturday on suspicion of negligence and abandoning people in need, as investigators looked into whether his evacuation order came too late to save lives. Two crew members were also arrested, a prosecutor said. (AP Photo/Yonhap) Korea Out

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MOKPO, South Korea (AP) — The captain of the ferry that sank off South Korea, leaving more than 300 missing or dead, was arrested Saturday on suspicion of negligence and abandoning people in need. Two crew members also were taken into custody, including a rookie third mate who a prosecutor said was steering in challenging waters unfamiliar to her when the accident occurred.

The number of confirmed dead rose to 32 when three bodies were found in the murky water near the ferry, said coast guard spokesman Kim Jae-in. Divers know at least some bodies remain inside the vessel, but they have been unable to get inside.

The ferry’s captain, Lee Joon-seok, 68, was arrested along with one of the Sewol’s three helmsmen and the 25-year-old third mate, prosecutors said.

“I am sorry to the people of South Korea for causing a disturbance and I bow my head in apology to the families of the victims,” Lee told reporters Saturday morning as he left the Mokpo Branch of Gwangju District Court to be jailed. But he defended his much-criticized decision to wait about 30 minutes before ordering an evacuation.

“At the time, the current was very strong, the temperature of the ocean water was cold, and I thought that if people left the ferry without (proper) judgment, if they were not wearing a life jacket, and even if they were, they would drift away and face many other difficulties,” Lee said. “The rescue boats had not arrived yet, nor were there any civilian fishing ships or other boats nearby at that time.”

The Sewol sank off South Korea’s southern coast Wednesday with 476 people aboard, most of them students on holiday from a single high school. More than 270 people are still missing, and most are believed to be trapped inside the 6,852-ton vessel.

By the time the evacuation order was issued, the ship was listing at too steep an angle for many people to escape the tight hallways and stairs inside. Several survivors told The Associated Press that they never heard any evacuation order.

Divers fighting strong currents and rain have been unable to get inside the ferry. A civilian diver saw three bodies inside the ship Saturday but was unable to break the windows, said Kwon Yong-deok, a coast guard official. Hundreds of civilian, government and military divers were involved in the search Saturday.

Senior prosecutor Yang Jung-jin told reporters that the third mate was steering the ship Wednesday morning as it passed through an area with lots of islands clustered close together and fast currents. Investigators said the accident came at a point where the ship had to make a turn, and prosecutor Park Jae-eok said investigators were looking at whether the third mate ordered a turn so

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