S. Korea ferry captain: Lack of safety checks was established practice

S. Korea ferry captain: Lack of safety checks was established practice

The captain of a ferry that capsized in April in South Korea's worst maritime accident in decades told a court yesterday that it was established practice not to make safety checks before the vessel set off.

Lee Joon Seok, 68, said he was following established practice by not running checks to ensure the cargo and the number of passengers fell within the limits of what his ship could carry.

"It's been the custom," Lee was quoted as saying by the Yonhap news agency, when asked why he did not make thorough checks.

He appeared at times disoriented and unable to properly understand questions when he took the stand for the first time in the south-western city of Gwangju, where he and three crew members are on trial for homicide.

The overloaded ferry Sewol capsized and sank on a routine voyage that killed about 300 people.

It caused an outpouring of grief and outrage at President Park Geun Hye's government, for what was seen by many as a botched rescue operation.

Lee was among 15 crew members accused of abandoning the sharply listing ferry after telling the passengers, most of them schoolchildren on a trip to the holiday island of Jeju, to stay put in their cabins.

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