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Prosecutors asked a court to issue an arrest warrant Friday for the captain of the South Korean ferry that sank leaving hundreds missing and feared dead, The Associated Press and Yonhap news agency reported.
Two other crew members were also facing arrest, even as the search continued for up to 268 survivors who may be trapped in the submerged vessel.
The investigation into Wednesday's sinking of the Sewol ferry has focused on how the ship began to list sharply, and whether a quicker evacuation order by captain Lee Joon-seok could have saved lives.
Both Lee, 69, and the company that owns the ship have apologized for the loss of life, although neither has admitted responsibility.
At least 28 bodies have been recovered. Officials said there were 179 confirmed survivors.
Many of the missing are high school students. The grief-stricken vice principal of the school - who was among those rescued - was found hanging from a tree on Friday as loved ones gathered to post messages of hope for those still unaccounted for.