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Some text messages purportedly from ferry passengers called fake

By KJ Kwon and Catherine E. Shoichet, CNN
updated 7:45 AM EDT, Thu April 17, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Police say no texts, calls, placed after ship sank, Yonhap News Agency reports
  • Investigators checked cell records and found nothing, news agency says, citing police
  • The messages painted a harrowing picture of events aboard ferry

Jindo, South Korea (CNN) -- A passenger describes women screaming in the darkness. A father learns his child is trapped. A son, fearing death, tells his mother he loves her.

Investigators haven't said what caused a South Korean ferry boat carrying hundreds of passengers to capsize on Wednesday. But as rescuers searched frigid waters for nearly 300 missing people, text messages purporting to be from missing passengers surfaced, describing the harrowing moments after the ferry started to roll.

CNN affiliate YTN reported on several messages, purportedly from passengers aboard the sinking vessel to their loved ones. CNN could not independently confirm the authenticity of the messages or when they were sent. It's also unclear what happened to the people who sent them.

On Thursday, the semi-official Yonhap News Agency reported that police now believe the messages supposedly sent after the ferry sank were fake.

Yonhap cited the Cyber Terror Response Center of the National Police Agency as saying that investigators had checked the cell phone records of missing passengers and found none had made any calls or texts after the ferry sank. It's unclear if other texts, purportedly sent earlier in the incident, were also believed fake.

Students trapped in sinking ferry
Sewol ferry captain Lee Joon-Seok was acquitted of murder, avoiding a death sentence, but was sentenced to 36 years in jail on November 11 for his role in the maritime disaster that killed more than 300. Sewol ferry captain Lee Joon-Seok was acquitted of murder, avoiding a death sentence, but was sentenced to 36 years in jail on November 11 for his role in the maritime disaster that killed more than 300.
South Korean ferry sinks
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Photos: South Korean ferry sinks Photos: South Korean ferry sinks
Students texted parents as ferry sank
South Korean ferry capsizes

The messages, widely reported in South Korean media, painted a chaotic picture of the situation aboard the ferry as hundreds of passengers waited for help and some purportedly reached out to loved ones.

'We are not dead yet'

"No phone connection so there is no Internet connection. So just sending text message. There are few people on the ship, can't see a thing, it's totally dark. So there are few men and women, women are screaming," says one purported text message from a passenger obtained by CNN.

"There are a few people in the ship," the student writes to his mother, "and we are not dead yet, so please send along this message."

A son reaches out

"Mom, in case I won't get to tell you, I'm sending this. I love you," another message says, according to CNN affiliate YTN.

The mom, apparently unaware of what was happening, responds, "Why?"

Then, "I, too, love you, son."

South Korean ferry rescue operation  South Korean ferry rescue operation
South Korean ferry rescue operationSouth Korean ferry rescue operation

A father offers his child advice

In another exchange described by YTN, a father advises his teenager to go outside to reach rescuers.

"No -- I can't move because it is tilted too much. Moving is more dangerous," the teen replies.

Later, the teen writes, "No, Dad, I can't walk now. There are no kids in the hallway. And it is too tilted."

'The ship got hit by something'

"I was on my way to Jeju Island," a passenger writes in a message to his brother, according to YTN.

"The ship got hit by something and is not moving and the coast guards are on the way."

READ: Potential air pockets on stricken ferry offer hope for survivors

READ: South Korean shipwreck survivors: Passengers told 'don't move' as ship sank

READ: Theories on how a South Korean passenger ferry suddenly sank

CNN's KJ Kwon reported from Jindo, South Korea. CNN's Catherine E. Shoichet reported from Atlanta. Hyoun Joo Song and CNN's Jane Lee and Amara Walker contributed to this report.

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