SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — DNA testing on teeth found in the wreckage of a sunken ferry recently raised from the sea has identified a girl missing since the 2014 disaster that killed 304 people, South Korean officials said Friday.
The Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries said testing showed the teeth were from 17-year-old Huh Da-yun, who was among the 245 students from the same high school who died when the Sewol sank on April 16, 2014.
Divers recovered 295 bodies from the ship’s wreckage and nearby seas before the government stopped underwater searches after seven months, leaving nine passengers unaccounted for.
Officials on Wednesday said DNA testing on a bone confirmed it was from a teacher who had been missing. Remains of three students, another teacher, a woman, a man and his 6-year-old son have yet to be identified.
Finding the remains of the missing victims would help bring closure to one of the country’s deadliest disasters, which triggered a national outpouring of grief and outrage over what was seen as a botched rescue job by the government, which eventually contributed to the ouster of former President Park Geun-hye. In March, salvage workers completed a months-long effort to raise the 6,800-ton ferry from waters off the country’s southwest coast and tow it to port in Mokpo, where investigators continue to search the wreckage for the remains of the victims.
Huh’s parents were among dozens of grieving relatives who have protested for years calling for stronger investigation into the government’s responsibility into the sinking, which was partially blamed on official incompetence and corruption, and for higher-level officials to be held accountable.
Accusations that Park was out of contact for several hours on the day of the sinking were included in the impeachment bill lawmakers passed last December, before she was formally removed from office and arrested over corruption charges in March.
The ferry’s captain survived and is serving a life sentence after a court found him guilty of committing homicide through “willful negligence” because he fled the ship without issuing an evacuation order.
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