Tragedy Off the Coast of South Korea: Hundreds Missing After Ferry Accident

At around 9 a.m. local time on Wednesday, April 16, 2014, a South Korean ferry sent a distress call. The ferry had 325 high school students, 15 teachers, and 119 others on board at the time that the call was made.

It was not immediately known how many of the 459 passengers remained on the vessel when it sunk later that morning. In the hours immediately following the accident, three people were reported dead and 55 others were reported to be injured. The death toll was expected to rise significantly. Almost 300 people remained missing and were presumed to still be on the ship that went down or in the cold waters off the coast of South Korea.

Could This Deadly Maritime Accident Have Been Prevented?

That is a question that investigators will be looking at after the search and rescue—and search and recovery—operations are over. Preliminary news reports indicate that the 459 passengers, the majority of whom were 16- and 17-year-old high school students, were allegedly told to stay in place once their vessel started listing to the side on the morning of April 16. That instruction may have caused fatalities.

Attorney Brian Beckcom notes that this tragedy “shows just how important it is for governments to tightly monitor and police the safety and seamanship standards for all vessels, particularly those entrusted with carrying passengers.”

Additionally, investigators will be looking into why the accident occurred. A passenger on board the vessel has reportedly told the media that the vessel crashed into something before it began to tilt. Investigators will likely look into the navigation of the ferry and into the vessel’s ability to withstand such an impact.

Remembering the Victims

It is difficult to imagine the grief of a single family, much less the entire Ansan High School community, after this South Korea ferry disaster. As they remember their loved ones, it is important for the rest of the world to also remember the lives lost and to think about how future tragedies at sea may be prevented.

As attorneys for other maritime accident victims, we remain committed to upholding the Jones Act and to protecting the safety and security of Americans on the high seas. Please browse our extensive video library to learn more about staying safe on a maritime vessel and about your legal rights if an accident occurs.