TODAY   |  April 19, 2014

Ferry captain defends delay in evacuation order

The captain of the South Korean ferry that capsized and sank leaving more than 300 dead or missing was arrested Saturday. NBC's Bill Neely reports he earlier defended his decision to delay ordering an evacuation.

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>>> though developments tied to the ferry disaster in south korea . the captain and two members of his crew are in custody as the agonizing wait for the families of the missing passengers, many of them high school students, now stretches into its third day. bill kneale is in south korea . bill, good morning.

>> reporter: good morning, erica. an apology from the captain of the ship and the first explanation of what went wrong and why he abandoned ship . here for the relatives of the missing children , another day of frustration, anger and fading hope. under arrest and under fire for abandoning ship, charged with criminal negligence. the 69-year-old captain said he had deliberately delayed any evacuation. i was afraid the passengers would drift away in the water, he said. he admitted he had been in bed when the accident happened. beside him and sobbing, the 26-year-old woman officer who had been steering the ship and the helmsman who said he made a mistake, but he blamed the steering gear. this was the captain arriving on shore, with the the first group of survivors. he left behind nearly 300 people trapped. his life rafts unused. today, divers tried again to retrieve those missing from the ship. they reportedly saw bodies, but the currents, like an underwater typhoon, said one, stopped them from pulling bodies out. for the parents waiting onshore, it is torture. i'm frustrated. divers have been there for four days, but we don't know whether or our children are starved or not.

>> we're dying on shore while our children are in the water. the school friends of those missing are suffering, too. at one high school , they comfort each other. more than 300 teenagers left here for a vacation. few have made it home. some of the survivors remain in the hospital, being treated for injuries and shock. back at their school, a vigil for the missing and for the advice principal, who survived, but then killed himself, because he said, it's too much being alive while my students are missing. while the advice principal's final note just heartbreaking, please put all the blame on me, he says. eye organized this trip. perhaps i can be the teacher to the missing children in the next world. and as he requested, his ashes have now been scattered next to the sunken ship . tragic. erica?

>> it is, bill. just heartbreaking. bill kneale, thank you.

>>> new developments on that tragic avalanche on mt. everest. crews recovered a 13th body overnight.