Culture

Sewol Ferry Disaster After Four Years

 Something that people couldn’t even imagine had happened on this very day: 4 years have now passed since the Sewol Ferry and most of the passengers on it became one with the sea.  So I ask us all to spare a moment where we can all send our wishes and prayers out to those whose lives were lost that day and to those whose lives were forever changed.

Just a little warning for you guys; this blog is very sincere and I wanted to cover all or most of the aspects… So there will be things included that could make you emotional.

 

There is never a moment where the fear of losing a loved one is gone. It will forever be buried within us, one day making an appearance. For some, it came far too soon; before their time was up. In this case, the passengers of the Sewol Ferry.

The ferry made the journey from Incheon to Jeju twice a week. A routine trip for both the crew and ferry itself. But no one was aware how fast and easily something could go wrong…

What happened

What was going to be a memorable trip for the students of Danwon High School and travelers, and another routine trip for the workers and truck drivers aboard the Sewol Ferry… quickly turned into a nightmare for both the passengers and the families. No one could have predicted what was going to happen on the morning of April 16th, 2014.

At 9 pm on April 15th, 2014, the ferry set off for its 14-hour journey from Incheon to Jeju. For the most of the journey, everything was going as planned. That is until passengers heard a loud ‘Boom’ sound and started to feel uneasy. Some thought that the ship had hit some coral or there was an internal explosion due to the distinctive sound. But no clear explanation was given during the moment. Passengers were told to stay where they were.

Without any knowledge of what was going on or if they were in danger, I can only imagine what they were thinking during the last few hours of the ship is above water. No matter what they were overhearing from the crew members and other passengers, they were told not to move. The ferry itself was the biggest operating ferry in South Korea. The ship was only 20years old. So should not have had any problems internally.

“My dear, there is never a moment where I don’t think of you.”

 

Time Line

>The ship set out on April 15th at 9 PM carrying 340 students, 33 workers, 33 truck drivers and 7 travelers including children; a total of 476 passengers and 180 cars and 3608 tons of cargo on board.

>April 16th 8:44 – 8:49 AM, a sudden ‘J’ turn was made to the right without slowing down. It was near Jindo that the turn was made.

>8:50 AM Danwon High School’s Vice Principle phones the school and alerts the faculty and parents of the situation.

>Crew calls for help from Jeju Maritime Traffic Control Centre.

>Crew ignores advice to evacuate the passengers, meanwhile, the crew and captain start evacuating.

>1st announcement to evacuate is made but it is too late, the ship has tilted more than 90°.

>11:18 AM the ship sinks except for the bow.

The reason? Poor regulations of cargo management and excessive navigation

Although some people speculate that there was an internal problem due to a loud bang sound being heard

The aftermath

Losing a child is the worst thing that could happen to a parent. Nothing in this world can console you and relieve you of that pain. This is what it was like for the parents of the victims. But it was not only the parents that had lost someone. People had lost a mother, a father, a brother and a sister. So many lives that had great things planned were unable to carry out any of it. All because of a mistake made by the crew.

I can only imagine how the parents and family must have felt. Waiting for any news that there was a chance their child may still be alive. That hope is both what kept them going as well as torn them apart. It was their pillar as well as a catalyst for their pain. When they came to Jindo is hopes of seeing their child’s name on the list of survivors.. they were met with bodies. Coming out one by one in white bags. Other victims name being added each time.

So many families waiting in the auditorium in hopes of getting any news and answers. But not much of an explanation was given to the grieving families at the time. All the maritime police could do.. was bow their head in forgiveness and shame of not being able to predict or respond efficiently. Upon hearing the news, so many people had fainted from shock. There is no one on this Earth who is prepared to hear that their loved one was dead. What was meant to be a memorable trip had turned into a tragedy…

“Just because you are gone from my eyes does not mean you are gone from my heart.”

 

The captain, who should have stayed behind as long as possible to help the passengers was one of the first people to get off the ship…

An arrest warrant had been issued for both the captain and two crew members at the time. Although there were cranes at the scene they were not in use. They were trying to pump oxygen into the ship in hopes of keeping anyone who had still managed to survive alive. The captain had been charged with 5 charges in total. He says he was in his bedroom at the time the ship started to sink. Even with this, he was not at the scene trying to help the passengers; it was the third mate.

It was not only the victims on board the ship who had been affected. But it was everyone as a whole. The families who lost loved ones, the survivors who were scared and even the people who were not involved and who had only heard of the suffering were torn apart inside. The vice principal of Danwon High School had managed to be rescued.. but unfortunately took his own life by hanging himself not long after. He felt as though he had failed to protect the children.

Finally Home

 In March 2017, the ship was finally raised from its watery grave, along with the bodies of more victims inside. Many family members of the victims had gathered to welcome home the bodies of those who were still missing. The ferry was trapped 40m under the water for 1073 days in total. It only took a few hours before the ship had finally begun to break the surface after a Chinese consortium began to use two salvage barges to raise it.

What took roughly half a day’s effort and been prolonged for as long as almost 3 years after the ferry sank. For nearly 3 years.. the missing bodies of the victims have trapped underwater all alone… whilst their families try their best to stay strong. So many onlookers broke down into tears as the ferry rose up. At the time the ferry was risen.. the 9 missing victims had finally come home.

 

There are so many people who didn’t get to say a final goodbye to their loved ones. Both the passengers on board and their families didn’t get to say their final words to each other. Although some were able to text each other in time… others were not so lucky…

“Hey guys, let’s make sure we meet up alive. I love you all.”

“I wanted to live…”

“Sending this in case I may not be able to say this again, mom, I love you”

“If I’ve wronged any of you, forgive me. I love you, guys.”

There are so many things that the passengers and families must have wanted to say.. but no amount of time could make up for a lifetimes amount of conversation.

Goodbyes hurt the most when the story was not finished.

My Message

“Words cannot describe how regretful I am. We as a whole should have been prepared and responded faster… So many lives were lost that day. There is nothing that can be done or said that can make the pain of losing a loved one disappear. But instead, know that they will always be with us in spirit.

The world was too cruel of a place for these innocent souls. I just wish that they could have had more time on this planet; more time to smile and make memories with family and friends. I sincerely hope that the families of those affected are in good health and aren’t trapped in the painful past. Please don’t be afraid to live your lives. Make memories that will last a lifetime in place of your loved ones who passed away that day.

Please be happy. 🎗”

“This is not the end, we will meet again. I promise.”

Thank you so much for reading.

I hope you have an amazing day.