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South Korea ferry recovery leaves diver crying: Parents identify decaying bodies

South Korea ferry body recovery: Families wounds deepen as they identify decaying bodies.
South Korea ferry body recovery: Families wounds deepen as they identify decaying bodies.
Photo by Chung Sung-Jun

The South Korea ferry disaster had many heartbreaking scenes, but what a diver saw in the hull of this sunken ship caused him to start crying while still underwater. The diver was inside the ferry among the floating bodies that he was there to recover when he came across a girl and a boy who had tied their life jackets together, according to NBC News on April 24.

The diver had no option but to separate the two because he could only get their bodies to the surface one at a time. He said he started to cry once he started thinking of these two kids, who didn’t want to leave each other. This grim task at retrieving the bodies is not for the weak of heart, but even the most veteran of search and rescue responders found many tear jerking moments with this recovery.

The Sewol ferry went down on April 16 and the majority of the passengers where high school kids who were going on a field trip. The horrendous way this accident was handled seems to be the reason for such a high death toll today. On Thursday the confirmed death toll was 171 with 131 people still unaccounted for in this tragedy at sea.

The captain had left a third mate at the helm, a sailor with less than a year’s experience at piloting this vessel. For some reason he made a sharp turn, which cause the heavy cargo on the ship to shift to one side. The ferry was also carrying 150 vehicles which is a heavy load to shift from one side to the other. That sharp turn capsized that boat.

The ill-fated ferry was about to see an even bigger tragedy with hundreds of lives lost. The passengers were told to stay in place and for the dead and the missing passengers today, that place was below deck. The ship listed too far at an angle for the majority of the dead and the missing to get out.

One passenger said that he couldn’t get to an exit because the ship was at such a tilt that it put the door up where the ceiling should be. He waited for the compartment to flood and then he floated out of the ship. Others were not that lucky. The divers report there were no air pockets that the passengers could have survived in for a while.

This indicates they were dead within the hour of the ship going under. The darkness inside the ship made the recovery of the bodies a tedious task. Divers report feeling around with their hands looking for the bodies floating in the ship’s flooded compartments. The first distress signal was sent by a young boy, who was a passenger going on that field trip. His shaking voice was riddled with fear saying:

“Save us! We’re on a ship and I think it’s sinking.”

This was the first distress call, not from the captain and not from the crew, but this young boy asking for help was the first indication that this ship was in trouble. This young man’s body was recovered from the shipwreck. He is sadly among the dead today, according to CBS News.

Identifying the bodies is a gruesome task for the family members as the trapped bodies have started to decay. Parents, with the surname of Choi, identified their son only by the clothes he had on the day he left on the field trip, the child otherwise was unrecognizable. They need to make all official identifications of the dead bodies through DNA testing because they are decomposing beyond recognition.

The parents are inflicted with new wounds today as they are seeing the bodies decomposed. Pyun Yong-gi, a man whose daughter is among the missing said today:

"Now we think we have to deal with this realistically. We don't want the bodies to decay further, so we want them to pull out the bodies as quickly as they can. I've seen the bodies and they are starting to smell. It inflicts a new wound for the parents to see the bodies decomposed.”

If you think that you've had a bad day today, once reading this you will realize that there's no such thing as a bad day in comparison to what these parents are enduring.

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