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Divers searching for ferry victims have nightmares

Posted May. 13, 2014 06:03,   


Something was felt on the tip of his fingers. He groped for it more. A head, a chest, and an arm. A bed mattress was pressing the body. He lifted it. Then, he took the body out of it. He left the ship with carrying the body in his left arm. Lots of matters floated in front of his eyes. He could see less than 10 centimeters ahead. Lee Sang-jin, 49, a private diver, cannot sleep at night because he sees a phantom of bodies.

Amid the continued searching efforts to find the victims of the sunken Sewol ferry, private divers suffer from trauma and nightmares. As they have to keep searching, they cannot even think about getting a psychological therapy or a psychiatric treatment. Lee who found some 30 dead bodies said in an interview with this newspaper on Monday, “If divers are left unattended, they will be at a serious mental risk. Lee is leading the search efforts on Undine’s Libero, a barge.

Lee said his fellow divers cannot sleep at night or suffer nightmares. Some divers have a nightmare when they sleep in a container on the barge. A few days ago, a fellow diver said while sleeping, “There is still one body there. I’ve got to take it out.” Lee said, “When you see a dead body, the image lingers in your head for a few days. If you find a body but cannot bring it, you get obsessed with it.”

Private divers take the risky and tough part in the search efforts as they are more experienced. When a private diver and a coast guard diver reach the ship, the coast guard diver waits at the exterior of the ship or the window holding an air hosepipe. The private diver has to enter the ship and grope for a body.

“We’re working in horror but we cannot express what we feel,” Lee said. “I hope the government can designate hospitals in the divers’ neighborhood so that they can get psychology treatment after the work is done.” Lee added, “I searched for dead bodies several times in the past. But this time it is still psychologically hard for me. Some divers on the barge are searching for bodies for the first time. Can you imagine how tough it is for them?”