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On Thursday, prosecutors indicted the captain of the capsized South Korea ferry and three crew members on homicide charges for their negligence.

Eleven others responsible for navigating the ferry were indicted on lesser charges for their role in the accident.

According to the Associated Press:

Capt. Lee Joon-seok and the other homicide defendants — a first mate, a second mate and the chief engineer — could face the death penalty if convicted, according to the Supreme Court, though no one has been executed in South Korea since 1997.

The 11 others were indicted for alleged negligence and abandoning passengers in need when the ship sank on April 16, according to prosecutors.

The indictment was filed Thursday in Gwangju District Court and a trial date will be decided in a few days, according to a court official who requested anonymity due to department rules. The official said all 15 defendants are expected to be tried together.

The 15 were the first group of people rescued when the ferry began listing. Captain Lee initially told passengers, most of whom were teenagers on a school field trip, to stay in their cabins. It took about another half an hour for Captain Lee to issue an evacuation order, but it’s not known for sure if his message got to the passengers.

Video of Lee trying to escape the ferry in his underwear surfaced shortly after the ferry capsized. He claimed he withheld evacuation orders because rescuers hadn’t arrived and he feared for the passengers’ safety.

While current search efforts to find the victims have been hampered by bad weather, search crews have recovered 284 bodies. Twenty others are still listed as missing. Only 127 people survived, including 22 of the 29 crew members aboard.


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