JINDO, South Korea -- The inflatable life rafts aboard South Korea's doomed ferry may have been faulty, prosecutors said Friday.
Only two of the Sewol's 46 rafts were launched before it capsized and sank last week, likely killing more than 300 people. Concerns had already been raised about the ship's seaworthiness after it emerged it was carrying far too much cargo and had problems with its steering.
Investigators said Friday that they have seized the Sewol's sister ship, the Ohamana, and found its life rafts and escape chutes did not work properly.
Asked whether he attempted to release the life boats, the second mate of the Sewol allegedly told police: "We tried everything but kept on slipping and couldn't reach them."
But photos published by the South Korean Coast Guard show one rescue worker walking toward the lifeboats on the deck of the Sewol as soon as he boards the ship. He attempts to free the lifeboats starting from the back, but none of them would budge.
SOUTH KOREA COAST GUARD VIA EPA
A rescuer, right, attempts to launch lifeboats aboard the stricken ferry Sewol on April 16, in a picture released by the South Korean Coast Guard.
The rescue worker says he checked 12 lifeboats but was unable to free them from their casing. He kicked the 13th lifeboat casing and finally succeeded in releasing it into the ocean. But it did not inflate properly as it floated on the surface.
In that aspect, this was worse than the Titanic disaster, where the crew helped the passengers off before many of them went down with the ship. Prosecutors allege that most of the crew of the Sewol ran for it, abandoning hundreds of high school students to the rising sea water.
First published April 25 2014, 5:26 AM
Bill Neely is NBC News chief global correspondent. He joined NBC News from Britainâ€™s ITV News in January 2014. Neely was ITV News international editor for 11 years. Over the course of 30 years in journalism, he has covered more than a dozen wars and conflicts from Northern Ireland to Syria, and has been embedded regularly with U.S. and British troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. He covered the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union and he has reported more than a dozen natural disasters including Hurricane Katrina, the Asian tsunami, and the deadly earthquakes in China, Haiti, and Pakistan. During his six years as ITV News Washington correspondent, which spanned the presidencies of George H. W. Bush and Bill Clintonâ€™s first term, he covered key stories in the U.S. such as the Oklahoma City bombings, the Atlanta Olympics, and the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center. He later closely followed the aftermath of 9/11 and, most recently, Superstorm Sandy.
... Expand Bio
His reports from across the globe have earned many prestigious awards, including numerous Royal Television Society awards, an Emmy for coverage of the 2008 earthquake in China, and an unprecedented three consecutive BAFTA awards, the British equivalent of the Oscars, for his work in China, Haiti, and the U.K.