Bones found near South Korea ferry wreckage are animals, not of victims

The news comes as bereaved families and officials hope to find the last nine bodies still missing from the disaster, after the ferry was raised last week and loaded onto a semi-submersible vessel for a journey to a nearby port.

Salvage crews in South Korea on Tuesday found bones and shoes believed to be from missing victims of a 2014 ferry disaster that killed 304 people, an official said.

The bodies of 295 passengers — majority students on a high school trip — were recovered after the sinking, which triggered an outpouring of national grief and soul-searching over long-ignored public safety and regulatory failures. This comes after an embarrassing mix-up for the authorities tasked with searching the vessel when they said they had found bone fragments assumed to be from one of the nine people still missing. but they were actually from "an animal".

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.

Kang Won-jin, a ministry spokesman, said officials who gave the earlier press conference assumed the bones belonged to a human at the time.

Nearly all the victims were schoolchildren and nine bodies were still unaccounted for, raising the prospect that they could still be inside the vessel and leaving their families emotionally trapped in the grieving process.

"We believe they came through the windows and opening of the ferry's bow", Lee said, adding that DNA tests would need to be undertaken on the remains. Footwear and other belongings were also found.

The relatives of the missing passengers, including four students and two teachers, were present for the service and prayed for the remains of their missing family members to be safely recovered.

Relatives are concerned that any remains could be lost in the process of getting the Sewol to land in Mokpo to be investigated.

Weeping relatives attended a memorial service for the missing held near the vessel, where Catholic, Protestant pastors and Buddhist monks offered prayers.

"The ship has come up, but not the nine people inside it", Lee Geum-hee, the mother of a missing girl, told a TV crew. "Please do the best and let us bring them back home".

The ferry's wreckage has been taken to the city of Mokpo where investigators will spend a month cleaning it and checking it for safety.

Investigations concluded the tragedy was largely man-made - the cumulative result of an illegal redesign of the ship which made it top-heavy, an overloaded cargo bay, inexperienced crew and a questionable relationship between the ship operators and state regulators.

  • Leroy Wright