Most of the ferry passengers were teenage tourists. They were students taking a school trip, and more than 300 of them never made it home when they took a South Korean ferry.
The Gwangju District Court in southern South Korea has sentenced captain Lee Joon-seok to 36 years in prison, but did not convict him of murder.
The captain could have received a death sentence had he been convicted on the homicide charge.
The court sentenced the ship’s chief engineer to 30 years in prison and 13 other crew members to up to 20 years in prison.
The engineer, Park Ki-ho, was convicted of homicide, because he abandoned 2 injured colleagues, escaped the ferry, and failed to tell rescuers about them, even though he knew they would die without help.
The court cleared 2 other crew members of homicide charges for the same reasons it acquitted the captain. Those crew members got 15 and 20 years in prison, it said.
Prosecutors and the crew members have one week to appeal, according to the court. Relatives of the victims said they will ask prosecutors to appeal the ruling, but senior prosecutor Park Jae-eok said his office hasn’t decided whether to do so.