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Lee Joon-seok, center, the captain of the sunken ferry Sewol in the water off the southern coast, leaves a court which issued his arrest warrant in Mokpo, south of Seoul, South Korea, April 19, 2014.

Updated at 3:12 p.m. ET

Officials in South Korea have arrested and formally charged the captain of the ferry that capsized this week with over 300 students on board.

The captain, Lee Joon Seok, has been charged with five crimes related to his abandonment of the vessel, negligence, causing bodily injury, not seeking rescue from other ships, and violation of “seamen’s law,” CNN reports. If convicted he faces up to life in prison.

Prosecutors and local police have also requested an arrest warrant for three crewmembers in a local court, AFP reports. “The joint investigation team of police and prosecutors asked for warrants to arrest three crew, including the captain,” a coast guard official told AFP.

The captain and most of the crew reportedly escaped the ferry that capsized Wednesday off the coast of South Korea, an accident that authorities think may have been the result of a shift in cargo after a sharp turn. Though the captain and crew escaped, hundreds remained trapped on board the sinking vessel, including students from the Danwon High School, outside of Seoul. On Friday, the death toll from the ferry disaster rose to 28 and hundreds are believed to still be in the ship. About 270 are still missing, CNN reports.

Hopes are waning among those waiting to hear of more rescues, and on Friday the vice-principal of the Danwon School, one of the 179 people rescued from the ferry, was found hanging from a tree in an apparent suicide.

Captain Lee Joon Seok apologized on Thursday saying, “I feel really sorry for the passengers, victims and families. … I feel ashamed.”


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