Nightly News   |  April 18, 2014

South Korea Ferry Captain Arrested

The captain of the sunken South Korean ferry, now under arrest and facing five charges, was reportedly among the first to abandon ship.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> to follow the slow-motion tragedy, the sinking of a ferry boat in the waters off south korea . what started out as a voyage to a holiday island with close to 500 people on board, many high school students. today the last visible part of the vessel went beneath the water. it's now completely submerged. as live pictures from the scene show the effort to get down there and get inside the hull to look for survivors. tonight, the captain is under arrest and has been charged as imagery shows him abandoning ship. there are still 274 people missing. we begin tonight with nbc's bill in south korea .

>> reporter: under arrest and charged with criminal negligence, the 69-year-old captain seen here abandoning his ship. he wasn't at the helm when it got into trouble. he left behind inflatable life raft, never launched. the final radio messages between the ship and maritime officials show he was never in control of events. from the bridge, our ship is in danger. it's rolling right now, please come quickly. officials order them to put on the life vests and get ready. people may have to abandon ship . the crew reply, it's hard for people to move. this woman mourns her 17-year-old boy. one of the few whose bodies have been recovered from a ship that has now disappeared in the mirky waters. divers tried today repeatedly to enter it but strong currents stopped them.

>> it's impossible to go down, but we have to try.

>> reporter: the hope that air pockets might keep some children alive is dwindling. one man who escaped the ship was the vice principal in charge of more than 300 students on board. at the school they announced today he killed himself. this was the school of rising, anger, and fading hope. parents overwhelmed by loss and grief. the high school is a school of tears. the classrooms lie empty except for the clothes of the missing children , the books they piled up ready for their return. normally at this time, you would hardly be able to move in the corridors or hear anything but noisy, excited teenagers. but this isn't normal. this is the silence of the disappearing, the empty classrooms of an entire school year. at the hospital near the school, survivors are comforted by friends, some are injured. they left for an island vacation. these are among the few who came home. they are all praying for a miracle, a hope as dim as the candle light at the vigil outside the school, a place now of deep sadness and silence. nbc news, south korea .