SEOUL, South Korea (TheBlaze/AP) — Soon after the ferry begins to tilt, nervous laughter can be heard from the high school students huddled below deck. In video clips stored on the cellphone of one of the young victims of a disaster that has shaken South Korea, the teenagers line up selfies, wonder if they’ll make the news and discuss posting about the excitement later on Facebook.
The fear in the cabin builds as the listing becomes worse. Some say they feel dizzy, that their legs are shaking. One student can be seen walking with his hands braced against the wall for balance.
“Am I really going to die?” a student asks at 8:53 a.m. April 16, less than two minutes into the video and the same time a crew member on the bridge made the ferry’s first distress call.
Students ask whether the ship will sink and where their teachers are. “What’s the captain doing?”
The shaky video was on the cellphone of a 17-year-old student, Park Su-hyeon, when rescuers recovered his body. The boy’s father also provided it Thursday to The Associated Press, saying he wanted to show the world the ship’s condition as it sank. Park Jong-dae, the boy’s father, earlier released it to select South Korean media.
The tragedy, which has left more than 300 people dead or missing, has created a sense of national mourning, anger and shame. Nearly 220 bodies, mostly from inside the submerged vessel, have so far been recovered. More than 80 percent of the victims were students from one high school in Ansan, south of Seoul, on their way to the southern tourist island of Jeju for a school trip.
The group of teens in the video alternate between bluster, attempts at humor and unmistakable fear.
Only one can be seen wearing a life jacket at the beginning of the video clips, which start at 8:52 a.m. and end, with a small break between them, at 9:09, when everyone appears to be wearing them.
The Times has more of a translation of what happened in between these times:
At 8:53, a voice on the intercom again advised the passengers not to move.
“What? Hurry! Save us!” a student shrieked. Another wondered, “Are we going to die?” A minute later, as the ship listed further, some students suggested donning life jackets. An announcement over the intercom again instructed passengers to stay where they were.
At 8:55, while the ship’s crew sent its first distress signal, one student in the cabin below shouted, “We don’t want to die!”
Over the intercom, the students were again urged not to move and to hold onto what they could. The ship’s captain and crew members later told reporters and investigators that they had thought it was safer for the passengers to stay in their cabins than to move in a panicked mass, causing the ship to list faster, or for them to jump into cold waters when the rescue ships were still far away.
At 8:57, as another announcement from the crew advised “please never move,” one student said: “Should I call Mom? Mom, this looks like the end of me.”
Some of the students in the video struggled as they try to buckle their life jackets. As the ferry lists, they joked about “final commemorative pictures” and “defying gravity” by trying to walk on the walls.
“It’s like we’re becoming the Titanic,” one student said, while at one point as someone in the footage could be heard signing Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On,” the theme song from the 1999 film “Titanic.”