South Korea Ferry: Humble, heroic fisherman saved passengers

(CNN) — A fisherman aboard a passing boat found himself in the middle of the tragedy as it unfolded.

He is credited with saving a number of lives as he pulled people to safety.

Saying goodbye to the boy who called for help
Saying goodbye to the boy who called for help

As desperate passengers are throwing themselves from the sinking ferry, a small blue boat rushes to the rescue. Its captain runs forward to help.

Seconds later he is pulling people from the sea.

They were screaming for help he says. He can still hear their screams even today.

He says he doesn’t want to see it anymore.

Captain Kim Hyun-Ho is from a tiny island of 100 people less than two miles from the disaster.

Today his tiny blue boat is back to it’s more humble roots. He and his brother are fisherman as their family has been for generations.

And today as painful as it clearly is he is telling his story for the first time.

“It was hell.. agonizing.. there were a lot of people and not enough boats.. people in the water yelling for help.. the ferry was sinking fast..” Captain Hyun-Ho recalls.

He says he has no idea how many he saved. He was told 25 he says.

“It sounds right but I don’t know,” Captain Hyun-Ho said.

Within 30 minutes of his arrival the ferry sank, leaving only a tiny part of the hull above water.

The people trapped inside couldn’t come out anymore, he tells me they were sinking with the ferry.

“I felt very sad and frustrated. Even now, I can’t sleep very well at night because of that,” Captain Hyun-Ho said.

It wasn’t until much later he says he learned from TV just how many passengers were lost.

A father of two grown children he says he is heart broken for all the parents.

“If everyone was saved maybe I’d feel proud. But that’s not the situation. I know that there are a lot of grieving families. How can I feel proud? I just feel pain and sadness,” Captain Hyun-Ho said.

He’s trying to fish again, but says he is a changed man… feels terrible… distraught.

That there are no words he says to truly show how bad he really feels.

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