Diver dies while participating in Sewol search

Posted on : 2014-05-07 14:24 KST Modified on : 2014-05-07 14:24 KST
Crew of civilian divers had needed reinforcements due to exhaustion after three-week search effort
 South Jeolla Province
South Jeolla Province

By Jin Myeong-seon, staff reporter in Jindo

On the 21st day after the sinking of the Sewol ferry, a diver brought in to replace the exhausted civilian divers, Lee Gwang-uk, 53, died during his first day taking part in the search.

“Lee, a civilian diver, entered the water at 6:06 am today as part of underwater search efforts,” the headquarters for the government response to the Sewol disaster said. “Five minutes after starting the dive, communication stopped. We recovered him, but he was unable to breathe on his own. We transported him to Mokpo Hankook Hospital and gave him emergency treatment, but he passed away at 7:36 pm.”

The headquarters said that Lee had taken part in the rescue work on the recommendation of a civilian rescue company. At the request of the Coast Guard, Undine Marine Industries had started looking for divers to stand in for the civilian divers who were overcome with exhaustion.

Lee and a colleague surnamed Yang arrived at the barge where the work was taking place at 10:35 am on May 5. Lee received safety training from the Undine work supervisor on the scene and then entered the water for the first time on the morning of May 6.

Normally, two people dive at the same time, but at the time of the accident Lee was in the water by himself. “We had him work on moving the guide rope, a task that is normally done by a single diver, at a low depth of 24 meters. We viewed this as a test, since it was the first time he had gone on a dive. Some of Lee’s fellow divers were waiting at the surface of the water,” the headquarters explained.

As of May 5, 600 divers had participated in the search, 91 of them civilian divers and the rest members of the Coast Guard and Navy. The Coast Guard had asked Undine to increase the number of available civilian divers by about 50. In addition to Lee, 13 of these extra civilian divers took part in the search on May 5.


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