First, the latest news. Yesterday it was announced that Kim Han Sik, the CEO of the ferry operator, Chonghaejin Marine Company, was convicted of accidental homicide and sentenced to 10 years in prison. 11 other officials from the operator and various other agencies were also convicted and sentenced.
And now a reconstruction and timeline of the actual capsize. Again, these statements of fact are from numerous news sources many of which are mentioned and cited in the Wikipedia article on the Sewol sinking.
As the Sewol approached Jindo Island off the southern coast of South Korea on the morning of April 16, 2014, the 0800 to 1200 bridge watch consisted of a new third mate, Park Han Gyeol, the officer conning the vessel, and a crewman, Cho Joon Ki who was the helmsman. The ship was negotiating a broad channel in good weather and calm waters, although with a significant current. The ship was on a course of 135̊ at 18 knots when, to avoid an approaching vessel observed as a radar contact, Third Mate Park ordered a course change to 145̊ in 5̊ increments. This occurred at 0848. It is unclear exactly what happened at that point other than the fact that there was a loss of control and the helmsman, even after applying left rudder, was unable to correct the turn to starboard. A port list of 15̊ immediately ensued and quickly increased to 20̊. There was a shift in inadequately secured cargo and by 0850, two minutes after initiation of the turn, the list had increased to 30̊ exposing the ship to extensive flooding into the automobile deck and cargo bay.
It appears clear then that within two minutes after initiation of a routine course change, this vessel was in a situation that was not recoverable. Two and half hours later, the Sewol had sunk.
The Captain and mates reported to the bridge immediately after the list occurred. The main engines were either shut down or ceased to operate and the ship lost power. At 0850 the Chief Engineer ordered the engine room evacuated. At 0855 the first distress call was made by the ship (a passenger later found dead actually made the first call by cell phone) and the Coast Guard responded by dispatching a patrol boat. The captain then gave an order which was repeatedly passed to the passengers by the public address system that they should stay in their rooms and not move. This instruction was captured on cell phone recordings of at least one of the passengers. At 0918 the list was reported to be 50̊. At about 0930 the captain reportedly first gave an order to abandon ship, however, this order was not effectively passed to the passengers and several survivors testified that they heard no such order. At 0938 communications with the ship were lost. At about 0946 the captain stepped off the bridge onto a rescue boat, at first identifying himself as a passenger. As the captain found his way ashore most of his student passengers followed his instructions to remain in place. They made cell phone calls and sent text messages, many saying their final farewell to family and friends. The last such message left the ship at about 1017.
The 172 survivors were those who immediately jumped overboard or were rescued by boats. Despite a massive rescue effort involving many ships, helicopters and hundreds of divers, no other survivors were recovered. The rescue effort itself claimed the lives of several others in diving accidents and a helicopter crash. Sewol still rests in the spot where she sank. Continuing efforts to recover the bodies of the missing continued until November 11 when the effort was abandoned with nine still missing.
Part 3 will discuss the basics of ship stability and the cause of this capsize.