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Ehime Maru Search Ends With 1 Victim Missing

November 08, 2001|Associated Press

HONOLULU — The Navy's $60-million effort to find the remains of those killed when a U.S. submarine struck and sank a Japanese training fishing vessel ended without the recovery of the ninth and final victim, the operation's commander said Wednesday.

The family of Takeshi Mizuguchi, a 17-year-old Uwajima Fisheries High School student still unaccounted for, was informed of the decision Tuesday, Rear Adm. William Klemm said.

Klemm said he thought family members had a premonition that the effort was going to end because they gave 24 pink roses to Navy officials to thank them for their efforts.

"That is a measure of kindness and class that goes beyond anything I have ever seen in my life," Klemm said. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Mizuguchi family."

Nine men and teenage boys went down with the Ehime Maru when it was rammed Feb. 9 by the Greeneville, which was demonstrating a rapid-surfacing drill; 26 others were rescued.

The wreckage was moved to shallower water so divers could search for the dead. The first body was found Oct. 16, while the eighth was recovered Oct. 25.

"I think we leave this project with an empty part in our heart for their families," Klemm said.

Divers also recovered 1,500 to 2,000 personal items, Klemm said.

Divers from the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force will conduct a final inspection of the wreckage to verify the completeness and accuracy of the Navy's work, Klemm said. The effort was to begin todayand take one to two weeks to complete, depending on weather conditions, he said.

Between 1,000 and 10,000 gallons of diesel fuel and oil believed to be in the Ehime Maru's tanks will then be drained before the ship is taken out to sea and allowed to sink, Klemm said.

Earlier Wednesday, the Hawaii Community Development Authority adopted a resolution supporting a concept for an Ehime Maru memorial at Kakaako Waterfront Park in Honolulu.

A delegation of officials from the Ehime prefecture in Japan presented plans for the memorial's design to the state agency, which oversees development of the park.

The memorial would consist of nine black granite blocks engraved with the outline of a ship; the Uwajima Fisheries High School emblem; the names, titles and ages of the victims; and a map showing the accident site, the site of the Navy's recovery effort, the ship's final resting place and Aloha Tower.

One of the representatives from the Ehime prefecture said his government would raise the estimated $65,000 for construction of the memorial.

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