November 13, 2014 / 5:48 AM / 3 years ago

Convicted crew of doomed South Korean ferry file for appeal

2 Min Read

Sewol ferry crew members (centre R) attend the start of verdict proceedings at a court room in Gwangju November 11, 2014.Ed Jones

SEOUL (Reuters) - Eight of the 15 surviving crew members of a South Korean ferry that capsized in April have filed for appeal against their convictions on negligence charges in the country's worst maritime disaster in more than four decades.

The eight crew members, who had been given prison sentences ranging from five to 30 years, filed appeal papers on Thursday, according to court records.

Video footage of the crew escaping the sharply listing vessel after telling the passengers to stay inside has sparked nationwide grief and anger. The families of the victims, many of whom were school children, have demanded harsh penalties.

The captain was sentenced to 36 years in jail on Tuesday but acquitted of homicide for which prosecutors had sought the death penalty. He was not among the eight who filed for appeal.

While a court ruled that the captain and crew did not do enough to help direct the passengers to safety, it said they were not the only ones responsible for the tragedy, and that the captain's negligence did not amount to an intent to kill.

A prosecutor involved in the case said after the rulings that prosecutors had decided to appeal against the decision on all the 15 crew members, calling the results "disappointing".

The overloaded Sewol capsized while making a turn on a routine voyage to the holiday island of Jeju. The vessel was later found to be defective, with additions made to increase passenger capacity making it top-heavy and unstable.

Only 172 of the ferry's 476 passengers and crew were rescued. Of the 304 confirmed dead or still listed as missing, 250 were high school children from a single school.

Defense attorneys have said the crew panicked at the time of the accident and were not adequately trained to perform duties to evacuate passengers.

"I will appeal for my clients unless the judges hand down a not guilty verdict," one of the lawyers told Reuters earlier, asking not to be named.

Reporting by Ju-min Park; Editing by Ryan Woo

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