Lee Joon-Seok, the captain of the South Korean 'Sewol' ferry that capsized and killed hundreds of people earlier this year, was on Tuesday sentenced to 36 years in jail.
Although acquitted of murder charges, Joon-Seok was accused of doing very little to save the hundreds of endangered passengers —most of them students – as they remained inside the sinking South Korean ferry on his orders. The death of the students was later attributed to the captain by angry parents and government officials.
After a five-month trial, a panel of three judges delivered the verdict and sentenced Lee, who was held for his conduct on the ferry that sank on April 16.
According to prosecutors, Lee had not used available equipments such as life rafts, life vest and announcements to evacuate the passengers, and hence deserved death penalty.
More than 300 people died in the accident, which was considered to be one of the deadliest maritime tragedies in South Korea in recent times. Almost 250 of the casualties were suburban high school students on their way to a field trip in a southern city.
After searching the waters for over seven months, the government ended the operation on Tuesday. Nine people are still missing.
The caption of the ship had been criticised collectively the members of the South Korean public. Even President Park Guen-hye termed the entire crew's actions "akin to murder".
Lee apologised many times saying he never intended to leave the passengers dead.
"I was stunned by the accident and I lost my ability to make decisions. I swear I never thought passengers should be left dying in order for me to make it to safety first," he had said once, as noted by CNN.
The 6,825-tonne ferry Sewol sank near the south-western port of Jindo while on its journey to the southern resort island of Jeju.