"A girl prays in front of paper ships bearing messages for the victims of the sunken ferry Sewol at a group memorial altar in Seoul, South Korea, Monday, May 5, 2014."
A civilian diver involved in the search for missing people from the South Korean ferry disaster died Tuesday, local time, after becoming unconscious, a government official said.
The 53-year-old diver was pulled to the water's surface by other divers when he lost communication shortly after starting underwater searches, according to the Associated Press, citing government task-force spokesperson Ko Myung-seok. He later died at a hospital. The victim was the first fatality among divers who joined search efforts following the Sewol's sinking, the coast guard said.
As of Monday, the death toll reached 260 people, the AP reported. Only 174 people have been rescued so far, including 22 of the 29 crew members, with 40 still missing. The final death toll is expected to be around 300. Of the 476 people on board, there were more than 330 students and teachers from Danwon High School in Ansan, a city near Seoul. The Sewol capsized off the southern coast of South Korea on April 16.
In their search, divers have been looking for bodies in the last three unopened rooms on the Sewol's third floor, Ko said. Floating debris and difficulty navigating the ferry's corridors and cabins have hindered search efforts, although better weather and calmer ocean currents have helped, Ko added, according to the AP.
The Sewol's captain, Lee Joon-seok, and 14 other crew members were arrested on negligence charges, and for abandoning passengers aboard the ferry during an emergency. Four others who were not aboard the Sewol when it sank, including those suspected of negligence in their handling of the ferry's cargo, were also arrested on Tuesday, local time.