Why novice sailor turned sharply

The ferry Sewol was sailing through the Maenggol Straits, one of the most treacherous stretches of water in Korea due to the fast-moving tidal currents, before it capsized Wednesday.

At the helm was a novice 25-year-old third mate surnamed Park, who had never navigated the notoriously difficult route off the country’s southwestern coast, with experienced Captain Lee Joon-seok staying in his cabin at the critical moment, according to the Coast Guard and prosecutors.

At one point, Park executed a sharp left turn for an unknown reason, and shortly after the 6,825-ton vessel started to list, completely capsizing two hours later.

Investigators and experts agree that the maneuver caused the cargo of 180 cars and heavy containers to shift to one side shifting the Sewol’s center of gravity. But they struggle to figure out why Park tried to make such a sudden, tight turn.

One possibility is that she did not know how to deal with the strong currents in the Maenggol Straits located among a cluster of islands.

“In very fast currents, vessels have to turn sharper than usual to change direction. The Sewol might have seen its center of gravity shift during the maneuver,” said Prof. Yun Jong-hwui at Korea Maritime University.

Regardless of the exact reason behind the sharp turn, three crewmembers are expected to face harsh punishment.

They were arrested Saturday on several charges including negligence and violating maritime law as they were among the first group to reach shore without taking steps to save passengers.

If found guilty, Park could face up to five years in prison, but Capt. Lee is different as he could face a life sentence.

After instructing passengers to stay in their cabin for their “safety” through the boat’s intercom, Lee allegedly abandoned the vessel without any follow-up measures leaving victims trapped in the ill-fated ferry.

Korea’s Seafarer’s Law requires captains not to leave their ships until all passengers are disembarked.

Also controversial are his activities after being rescued. At first, he pretended not to be the captain and at a hospital allegedly dried wet money. By Kim Tae-gyu The korea times

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