Sunday 27 May 2018

Victims' phones reveal terror of Korean pupils as ferry sank

A mourner cries next to yellow ribbons dedicated to missing and dead passengers of sunken passenger ship Sewol, after paying tribute at the official memorial altar in Ansan
A mourner cries next to yellow ribbons dedicated to missing and dead passengers of sunken passenger ship Sewol, after paying tribute at the official memorial altar in Ansan

Malcolm Moore and Julian Ryall

PARK Ye-seul left one final message on her mobile telephone: "Please rescue us," she wrote as pupils cried out in fear around the 17-year-old.

She could hear the rescue helicopters above and at 9.41am rescue boats were lifting the ferry's captain and crew to safety. But Ye-seul died.

Her mobile phone was returned to her father, Park Jong-beom, and he released the footage to South Korean television yesterday.

Mobile phone videos salvaged from the South Korean ferry which sank last month show nervous jokes circulating among the pupils on board.

Ye-seul's footage and other recordings show how hundreds of teenagers on board the ferry first joked to allay their nerves, then slowly realised they might not escape with their lives, all while being told repeatedly to remain in their berths.

As the videos emerged, investigators said that the ferry was crammed with three times its maximum cargo limit and had siphoned off water in its ballast tanks, intended to stabilise the ship, in order to make more room for freight.

The father of Park Su-hyeon, who released a 15-minute video taken from the memory card of his dead son's mobile phone, said he had made the video public to show how wrong the ferry's crew had been. His son's video began at 8.52am, roughly three minutes before the ferry made its first distress call.

The pupils captured on the video cracked jokes to ease the rising tension as their cabin tilted ever more precariously.

In the background, repeated announcements instructed the students to stay where they were. "Nonsense," one student responded. "I want to get off. I mean it," said another.

Most of the others seem unaware of the gravity of the situation, lolling in their bunks and giggling anxiously.

"This one would be fun to post on Facebook," said one.

Eventually, fear creeps in.

"This isn't an emergency drill. This is reality," one terrified teenager said.

MOTHER

"Really, once the water leaks in, we really got to get out," said another. "Should I call my mum? Mum, this could be the end," said a third.

The video ends at 9.08am, with one pupil saying that he was scared. Six minutes later, the crew of the ferry told the shore that the ship was tilting so far that evacuation was impossible.

Ye-seul's four-minute video began half an hour later, at 9.37am, when the ferry lost contact with the shore. The video was so emotional that the South Korean station JBTC only showed still images and played edited audio clips.

Earlier, Ye-seul had sent a text message to her father asking what to do. "Helicopters are coming, they must be coming to rescue us," said Ye-seul. "The boat is horribly tilted. Why is it lying like this?"

"I miss my mother," one pupil said. "Why are you crying?" asked Ye-seul. "We will survive! Let's meet again in this life." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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