Heart-wrenching messages of fear, love and despair, sent by high school students from a sinking South Korean ferry, added extra emotional weight Thursday to a tragedy that has stunned the nation.
Nearly 300 people -- most of them students on a high school trip to a holiday island -- are still missing after the ferry capsized and sank on Wednesday morning.
|South Korean relatives of passengers on board a capsized ferry cry as they wait for news about their loved ones, at a gym in Jindo on April 17, 2014|
"Sending this in case I may not be able to say this again. Mom, I love you," student Shin Young-Jin said in a text to his mother that was widely circulated in the South Korean media.
"Oh, I love you too son," texted back his mother -- unaware at the time that her boy was caught in a life and death struggle to escape the rapidly sinking vessel.
|Graphic on the South Korean ferry accident, including the known sequence of events that has left nearly 300 people missing|
Unlike many others, the exchange had a happy ending as Shin was one of only 179 survivors rescued before the ferry capsized and went under the water.
|Divers prepare to search for passengers near a South Korean ferry that capsized on its way to Jeju island from Incheon, at sea some 20 kilometres off the island of Byungpoong in Jindo on April 17, 2014|
Others were not so fortunate.
Another student, 16-year-old Kim Woong-Ki, sent a desperate text for help to his elder brother as the ship listed violently over to one side.