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As Korean Ferry Sank, Some Crew Members Fought To Save Lives

With the death toll continuing to rise and likely to exceed 300, the captain and crew of the ferry that sank last week off the coast of South Korea have been called cowards and accused of murder.

Now, though, we're also hearing about the heroic acts of some among the 29-member crew — seven of whom either are confirmed to have died or are missing.

"Passengers recall moments of quiet bravery from the crew," The Associated Press reports.

One passenger, Koo Bon-hee, 36, told the wire service "that there were not enough life jackets for everyone in the area on the third floor where he and others waited. So crew members — two men and two women — didn't wear any so that all the passengers could have one."

South Korea's Yonhap News writes that on Tuesday in Incheon:

"Families and friends gathered for the funeral of 22-year-old crew member Park Ji-young. The story of Park's heroic attempts to save other passengers has been widely covered in the local media, prompting online calls for her designation as a martyr.

"When asked by a student why she wasn't putting on a life jacket, Park reportedly replied that the crew should be the last to leave the ship and assured the student that she would make her way out after helping the passengers to safety."

Ahn So-hyun, whose husband was among the crew, told reporters that the last time she heard her husband's voice was when he called to tell her "I'm on my way to save the kids" — a reference to the more than 320 high school students who were among the estimated 476 people on board.

Her husband is among those still missing and feared to be dead.

The AP adds that "Oh Yong-seok, a 57-year-old helmsman, said he and four crew members worked from nearby boats to smash windows on the sinking ferry, dragging six passengers stuck in cabins to safety."

By late Tuesday in South Korea, according to news reports, 108 bodies had been recovered. As Yonhap News notes: "194 remained unaccounted for. The other 174 passengers, including the ship's captain and most of its crew, were rescued before the vessel went under."

The ferry, named the Sewol, sank one week ago (the morning of April 16 in South Korea; the evening of April 15 in the U.S.). It was on a trip from Incheon to the resort island of Jeju. The students were from a high school in the city of Ansan, near Seoul.

Authorities have arrested the captain and two crew members, and detained six other members of the crew, the AP says. "Captain Lee Joon-seok told passengers to stay in their cabins as the ferry listed and filled with water," the wire service writes, "then took at least half an hour to order an evacuation and apparently escaped on one of the first rescue boats."

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