File photo of Zhang Shunwen
Three years before the cruise ship he was steering capsized in the Yangtze River, Captain Zhang Shunwen was honored for saving the life of an elderly man who had suffered an asthma attack.[Special coverage]
Zhang is now the focus of attention after his ship, the Eastern Star, sank on Monday night during a fierce storm. Sixty-five bodies have been found and more than 370 people are missing.
Zhang escaped alive and is in police custody, although he has not yet been accused of any wrongdoing.
Zhang's wife was also an employee on the ship and her whereabouts are not known, according to China News Service.
Born in 1963, Zhang has been working for 35 years and became captain of the ship in 2007. Until the incident, Zhang was regarded as an effective captain and his experience as a sailor was flawless with numerous awards.
He received an "outstanding employee" award by the Chongqing Eastern Shipping Corporation last year, said Liu Yiqing, an electrician and colleague of Zhang.
The son of a former shipping captain, he has sailed the route between the southern Chongqing municipality to the city of Nanjing for seven or eight years, said Zhao Chunyuan, a retired cargo ship captain who used to work with Zhang.
On Monday night, the Eastern Star capsized roughly midway between the two cities.
"He was a good man and I think there must be logical reasons for the cause of the accident," Zhao said.