SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — The first body found in three months was being recovered Tuesday from the sunken South Korean ferry, increasing the official death toll to 295, officials said.
The government task force said in a statement the body was found around a women’s toilet in the ship. The badly decayed body was being pulled up to the surface and DNA tests were planned to identify the victim, according to task force officials.
The Sewol ferry sank in April. The body is the first recovered since July 18. Nine victims are still missing. Searches of the ferry wreckage have been ongoing since the disaster, and family members of the missing people have urged that the underwater search effort continue.
A lawyer for the family members said Monday they rejected a proposal to hoist the ship. They worry over a possibility the remaining bodies would be swept away or damaged. Most of the ferry victims were teenage students who were on a school trip to a resort island.
The sinking, one of South Korea’s deadliest disasters in decades, caused nationwide grief and fury, with authorities blaming overloading of cargo, improper storage, untimely rescue efforts and other negligence for the incident.
On Monday, South Korean prosecutors demanded the death penalty for the ferry’s captain and life sentences for three other key crew members, blaming their negligence and abandonment of passengers for the massive loss of life. Prosecutors asked for up to 30 years of prison terms for eleven other crew members. A local district court is to issue verdicts on the 15 crew members in November.
South Korea has a de facto moratorium on capital punishment and has not executed anyone since December 1997.