Police say the vice principal, Kang Min Kyu, used his belt to hang himself from a tree outside a gymnasium in Jindo, where relatives of missing passengers have gathered for updates. Kang was reportedly one of the first people rescued from the ship.
The death toll from the Sewol ferry disaster now stands at 28, though, with about 270 people still missing, it's expected to rise dramatically. Divers briefly breached the ship's hull on Friday but were forced to turn back because of bad weather.
"The guide line that links the sunken ship and the rescue vessel has been cut off," the South Korean Coast Guard said. "Still, the entrance into the ship is open, and we plan to resume operation to enter the ship."
Officials are investigating whether a third mate's decision to order a sharp turn caused the boat to capsize. The abrupt turn took place at about 8:49 am, just ten minutes before the ferry's first distress call, though officials cautioned they don't yet know if the turn was made voluntarily or not.
Transcripts from the boat, obtained by the Associated Press, show the captain's order to abandon ship came roughly 30 minutes after an official at the Jeju Vessel Traffic Services Center told the boat to prepare the boat for evacuation. From the AP:
In the recording of the conversation, the Sewol crewmember says: "Currently the body of the ship has listed to the left. The containers have listed as well."
The Jeju VTS officer responds: "OK. Any loss of human life or injuries?" The ship's answer is: "It's impossible to check right now. The body of the ship has tilted, and it's impossible to move."
The VTS officer then says "Yes, OK. Please wear life jackets and prepare as the people might have to abandon ship."
"It's hard for people to move," replies the crew member on the radio.
Oh Yong-seok, a helmsman on the ferry, told the AP that the first instructions from the captain were for passengers to put on life jackets and stay where they were, Oh said.
About 30 minutes later, the captain finally gave the order to evacuate, Oh said, adding that he wasn't sure in the confusion and chaos on the bridge if the order was relayed to the passengers. Several survivors told the AP that they never heard any evacuation orders.
Lee Joon-Seok, the captain, has made one brief statement since the incident: "I am really sorry and deeply ashamed," Lee said in a video. "I don't know what to say."
Meanwhile, distraught family members awaiting word about their missing loved ones described their anguish to reporters.
"I want to jump into the water with them," Park Geum-san, 59, the great-aunt of a missing student, told the Associated Press. "My loved one is under the water and it's raining. Anger is not enough."
Family members of passengers gathered in a gym in Jindo, where they await updates about the disaster.
[Images via AP]