The captain of the South Korean ferry that sank in April said he was "confused" while the boat was sinking, Sky News reported.
Lee Joon-seok, 69, has been on trial for negligent homicide since June and faces the death penalty if convicted.
"I was stunned by the accident and I lost my ability to make decisions," Lee told the court in the southwestern city of Gwangju. "I failed to take the necessary measures for passengers to leave the ship. (But) I swear I never thought passengers should be left to die in order for me to make it to safety first."
Of the 304 people killed when the ferry Sewol sank on April 16 near Jindo, 294 bodies have been recovered. The last was pulled from the water July 18. Since then, divers have found little beyond cellphones and school uniforms — the latter a reminder that the vast majority of victims were high school students on a class trip.
Relatives of the 10 passengers still missing remain at the gym, a staging area for the families since the disaster began. Local officials have offered them better lodging, but the families have refused to leave.
They live with the fear that the bodies of their loved ones might never be found, and agonize over growing public sentiment in South Korea that the grieving families should move on.
Authorities investigating the sinking say a few items contributed to the tragedy, including an inexperienced crew member who made a sharp turn and cargo overload.
The Associated Press contributed to this report