SEOUL, May 30 (Reuters) – A diver searching for bodies in a sunken ferry died on Friday after an accident, the coast guard said, as a car believed to be used by a fugitive businessman linked to the ship was reported found.
The diver was pulled from the water where he was involved in the cutting open of the hull in the hope of reaching some of 16 people missing 45 days after the vessel sank, a coast guard official said.
The man, in his forties, was bleeding from the face and unconscious when he was pulled to the surface and died in hospital, the official said. He was the second diver to die since the April 16 disaster.
The Sewol, overloaded and travelling too fast on a turn, sank off the southwest coast on a routine journey from Incheon on the mainland to the southern holiday island of Jeju, killing children and teachers, among others, on a high school field trip.
Only 172 people were rescued of an estimated 476 passengers and crew on board.
The families of the 16 missing expressed “unbearable pain” on Friday at not finding their loved ones.
“It’s 45 days since the disaster and the ninth day in a row without any victims being recovered,” Bae Eui-cheol, who spoke for the grieving families, said.
“It’s another day of unbearable pain and waiting but still the families hope they can see the missing one last time.”
Police are searching for the head of the family that owned the operator of the ferry, with a half a million dollar reward for information leading to his capture.
Yoo byung-un, who ran a web of business holdings through a investment company owned by his sons, has eluded authorities armed with an arrest warrant for close to two weeks.
He is wanted on charges of negligence, and embezzlement and tax evasion.
Police fanning out across the country handed out leaflets with Yoo’s photograph, which was also posted online. The manhunt has included a search of both Yoo’s house and the rural compound of a church that he co-founded, but he has eluded capture after ignoring summonses to appear for questioning.
Yonhap news agency said police had found a car believed to be have been used by Yoo outside the search area, suggesting he may have escaped further afield.
All 15 of the surviving crew members, including the 69-year-old captain, have been arrested and face charges of gross negligence after video footage emerged of some abandoning the vessel while the passengers were still on board. (Reporting by Jack Kim; Editing by Nick Macfie)