South Korean crew member says 'we were ordered' to leave sinking ferry

A funeral service employee puts up a portrait of victims of sunken passenger ship Sewol at the official memorial altar in Ansan May 2, 2014. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

(This story from April 24 is corrected to attribute comment in lead paragraph to male crew member, not female)

SEOUL (Reuters) - A member of crew of a South Korean ferry that sank last week said on Thursday he and his colleagues were “under command” to abandon ship.

The Sewol, weighing almost 7,000 tonnes, sank on a routine trip from the port of Incheon, near Seoul, to the southern holiday island of Jeju. Investigations are focused on human error and mechanical failure.

The unidentified crew member, speaking briefly to reporters on the way from court back into detention, was speaking behind a surgical mask and wearing a baseball cap with a jacket hood.

More than 300 people, most of them students and teachers from the same school, are dead or missing presumed dead in the April 16 disaster.

As the ferry began sinking, the crew told the children to stay in their cabins.

Writing by Nick Macfie; Editing by David Chance