(USA TODAY) -- As the death toll from the sinking of a South Korea ferry climbed well above 100, South Korean authorities arrested or detained six more crewmembers and issued a foreign travel ban for 44 executives, shareholders and family owners of the company that operated the ill-fated vessel.
Divers, who have opened up five underwater passages into the submerged ferry, continue to search around the clock for more bodies from the 5-story-high Sewol that sank off the southwest coast of Korea last week.
The death toll Tuesday increased to 135 out of the 476 people — mostly high school students — who were on board the vessel when it began listing 12 miles off the coast of the island of Jindo after making a sharp turn.
Only 174 passengers, including the ferry's captain and most of its crew, were rescued as the boat ran into trouble. The number of persons unaccounted for stands at 170.
Although the 29 crewmembers have come under harsh criticism for their response to the tragedy, not all took an opportunity to leave the listing vessel. At least seven of them are also missing or dead, and several of those who survived stayed on or near the ship to help passengers.
"His last words were, 'I'm on my way to save the kids,'" Ahn So-hyun told reporters of what her husband, missing crewmember Yang Dae-hong, told her by cellphone as the ship began to sink last Wednesday.
He was referring to the 323 students on the ferry from Darwon High School in Ansan, near Seoul. They were on a school trip to the southern tourist island of Jeju.
Passenger Koo Bon-hee, 36, told the Associated Press that there were not enough life jackets for everyone in the area on the third floor where he and others waited. So crewmembers — two men and two women — didn't wear any so that all the passengers could have one.
The 68-year-old captain, Lee Joon Seok, and two crewmembers — a helmsman and a 25-year-old third mate — were arrested last week on suspicion of negligence and abandoning people in need.
The third mate was steering at the time of the accident Wednesday in a challenging area where she had not steered before. The captain was not on the bridge at the time.
Six other crewmembers have been arrested — and two more detained on Tuesday — although prosecutors have yet to obtain arrest warrants for them.
Four of the crew arrested Monday spoke briefly to reporters as a group outside Gwangju District Court. Their heads were bowed and their faces were covered.
Asked by a reporter if anybody got to the lifeboats as the ferry was listing badly, one of the crewmembers said they "made attempts do so, but it was hard to go there," CNN reports.
All the crew "made attempts to do that," he said. "But we slipped so we could not do that."
In the latest move by South Korean authorities, the Yoo family that owns the Chonghaejin Marine Co., the operator of the ferry, have been barred from leaving South Korea, The Korea Herald reports.
Up to 44 executives and shareholders of the company, including 72-year-old CEO Kim Han-shik, are also covered by the ban. Kim dropped from public view after a press conference Thursday.
"The measure is to question them and hold them responsible for the poor management of the vessel," an official from the prosecution told the Yonhap news agency.
The Incheon district prosecutors' office said it is looking into the foreign and domestic assets of Yoo Byung-eun, a former chief of Semo Marine Co., and his two sons.
The Korean ferry operator bought the 20-year-old Japanese ferry two years ago and added another deck to raise the capacity from 840 to 956.
Investigators will be looking to see if that renovation, which added 239 tons to its original form, could have made the 6,8525-ton vessel more susceptible to capsizing, The Korea Herald reports.
Contributing: Associated Press