South Korea ferry disaster: Body of boy who made first distress call is found, say parents

Boy was the first student to call for help minutes after the boat began listing

The parents of the boy who made the first distress call from aboard the sinking South Korea ferry believe his body has been found by divers, the coast guard has said.

The boy called an emergency 119 number which put him through to the fire service, which in turn transferred him to the coastguard shortly after the Sewol ferry began listing, according to local news reports.

"Save us! We're on a ship and I think it's sinking," the Yonhap News Agency quoted the boy as saying. His call was followed by about 20 other emergency calls from children on board the ship.

The parents are understood to have seen his body and named him as their son, but he has not yet been formally identified by DNA.

Almost 250 students and teachers from the Danwon High School have been confirmed dead or are presumed to have died after the ferry sank while travelling from Incheon to Jeju Island, carrying 476 people. A total of 174 passengers have been rescued since the incident on 16 April.

Angry relatives of some of those still missing surrounded the fisheries minister Lee Ju-young and the coast guard chief Kim Seok-kyun on Thursday, preventing them from leaving the area where families have been waiting for word of their loved ones.

The government has said the search is becoming more difficult because divers must now break through cabin walls to find more bodies. Many of the bodies already retrieved were in a larger lounge area.

Some of the family members shouted at the officials, accusing them of lying about the operation, demanding that the search continue through the night and asking why hundreds of civilian divers have not been allowed to join coast guard and navy personnel in searching for bodies

A boy and girl trapped in a sinking South Korean ferry with hundreds of other high school students tied their life jacket cords together, a diver who recovered their bodies said, presumably so they would not drift apart in the water.

Read more: Devastated students return to classes at Danwon High School

The diver had to separate the two because he could not carry both up to the surface at the same time.

"I started to cry thinking that they didn't want to leave each other," he told the Kyunghyang Shinmun newspaper on Thursday.

Survivors have claimed passengers were told to stay on the ship as it listed. Cha Eun-ok, who was on the deck taking photographs at the time, said an “on-board announcement told people to stay put... people who stayed are trapped”.

Twenty-two of the 29 members of the ferry's crew survived, and 11, including Capt. Lee Joon-seok, have been arrested or detained in connection with the investigation.

Final year students at Danwon returned to classes today. Education officials said the first two days of classes will focus on helping students cope with losses and trauma, with help from psychiatrists and professional counsellors.

Additional reporting by agencies

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