Five days have passed since a rescue helicopter carrying seven people fell into the East Sea near the Dokdo islets, and the authorities are continuing search efforts for the remaining five victims.
The Korea Coast Guard said Monday, in a joint effort with the Navy and the fire agency, 14 boats and six helicopters have been mobilized to look for the bodies of the victims. The authorities have also mobilized two drones and 10 police and fire officers at the shoreline.
Underwater rescue operations have been halted since Sunday afternoon owing to bad weather. The maritime police are not certain when they will resume the operations.
Two bodies, which were retrieved from the waters Sunday morning, have been moved to Keimyung University Dongsan Medical Center in Daegu. Through DNA checks and fingerprint identifications by the National Forensic Service, they have been confirmed as 39-year-old vice captain Lee Jong-hoo and 45-year-old head engineer Seo Jeong-yong.
Five people -- including a body that maritime police believe to have been lost during the salvage operation -- remain missing as of 4 p.m. Monday.
Around 2 p.m. Sunday, the wreckage of the helicopter -- excluding the tail part that had snapped during the crash -- was salvaged by the Navy’s Cheonghaejin submarine rescue ship. The chopper’s fuselage is being kept at a port in Pohang from which it will be transported to Seoul for examination.
An investigative committee comprising five investigators at the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport has been formed to conduct thorough investigations of the chopper’s fuselage to determine the exact cause of the crash. The committee will be searching for the helicopter’s dashcam, located somewhere between the tail and the wing. The authorities are still searching for the remaining debris.
Meanwhile, local newswire service Yonhap News Agency reported that some of the family members of the missing people claimed they saw a video which captured the moment the chopper crashed. According to the report, the families asserted the helicopter tilted as it was flying mid-air, and fell straight into the water with a loud bang.
The report also stated the authorities stopped the press from communicating with the families at the fire station in Daegu. An official from the fire headquarters assumed a misunderstanding was caused due to the closed session held between the authorities and the family members.
Both the fire agency and the maritime police have denied holding the video described by the victims’ families.
By Choi Ji-won (email@example.com