Owner of sunken ferry blamed for five earlier crashes

South Korean Coast Guard and rescue teams search for missing passengers at the site of the sunken ferry off the coast of Jindo Island on April 17, 2014 in Jindo-gun, South Korea.  (Chung Sung-Jun, Getty Images)
South Korean Coast Guard and rescue teams search for missing passengers at the site of the sunken ferry off the coast of Jindo Island on April 17, 2014 in Jindo-gun, South Korea. (Chung Sung-Jun, Getty Images)
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Updated: 6/30 3:43 pm

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Even before more than 300 people died this spring when the South Korean ferry Sewol broke up and sank, government investigators blamed the company's sailors for five previous crashes.

Three of the incidents occurred within a 12-month span in 2006 and 2007. After those occurred, a government investigator chided the company for failing to make safety reforms.

Chonghaejin Marine Co.'s punishment for those five failures: two one-month suspensions for sailors, three verbal warnings to captains, one verbal warning to the company and at least one fine, of 7.5 million won ($7,400).

None of the crashes caused fatalities, but together, some experts say, they were reason enough for regulators to suspend or even revoke the company's license. That never happened, and in fact Chonghaejin was allowed to expand by adding the Sewol to its fleet.

©2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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