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Wednesday, October 17, 2001




COURTESY OF THE U.S. NAVY
Canyon Offshore's TXL-16 Remotely Operated Vehicle
observed the Ehime Maru during the lift Sunday by the
Rockwater 2 to the shallow-water recovery site off the
Honolulu Airport. The remains of one person have
been recovered from the vessel.



Navy recovers
remains of 1
Ehime Maru victim

Positive identification of the
man could take several months


By Gregg K. Kakesako
gkakesako@starbulletin.com

The Navy has recovered the remains of one of the nine people lost eight months ago when the submarine USS Greeneville collided with a Japanese fisheries training vessel.

However, Lt. Cmdr. Neil Sheehan, a Navy lawyer, yesterday said identification of the crewman from the Ehime Maru will not be released until after the medical examiner, who received the remains last night, has informed his relatives and the families of the remaining eight victims.

That could take up to several months, the Navy said, if the medical examiner here has to rely on DNA testing to make a positive identification. The reason for the delay, the Navy said, is because of its concerns for the wishes of the families.

"We are committed to dignified handling with the nine families." Sheehan said. "This process is in place to maintain the dignity and respect the families deserve."

The Navy also said it will not identify what type of personal items it may recover until they have been turned over to family members.

Meanwhile, Carolyn Winters, the Navy's incident deputy commander, said surveys by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services and the state Department of Land and Natural Resources since Monday raise the possibility that 14 birds -- seven in Kaneohe Bay and another seven on the south shore -- may have been contaminated by diesel fuel or lube oil leaked from the 190-foot Ehime Maru.

Winters said the feathers of some of the birds are discolored while the behavior of others suggest they might have come into contact with diesel oil or some other substance.

She said six red-footed boobies and one great frigate in the rookery near the rifle range at Kaneohe Marine Base Hawaii appeared to be affected. On the south shore between Kapiolani Park and Thomas Square, observers reported that seven white terns were showing similar symptoms.

Yesterday morning, Coast Guard helicopters reported "a slight sheen" in the water, and so the Navy placed oil skimmers in the water, Winters said.

Lt. Cmdr. Gregg Baumann, Naval Sea Systems project relocation manager, said Navy scuba divers yesterday plugged an oil vent that has been leaking diesel fuel. The Ehime Maru was carrying 60,000 gallons of diesel fuel when it was struck Feb. 9 by the USS Greeneville nine miles south of Diamond Head. The Navy estimates that 50,000 gallons have already leaked into the ocean, most of it before the lifting operations began in August.

Baumann said the remains were discovered by a scuba diver using a remote camera. Baumann said the Navy doesn't plan to say where any of the remains are located.

"I extend my heartfelt condolences to the family members of the missing Japanese as we reach the painful conclusion (of the search)," said Gov. Moriyuki Kato of Ehime prefecture. "I pray that as many bodies as possible will be found, and am thankful for the U.S. Navy's thorough preparations leading up to this day."

Ietaka Hotta, schoolmaster of the Uwajima Fisheries High School in Ehime prefecture, said he will soon depart for Honolulu to join family members of the missing Japanese, Kyodo News Agency reported.

"I will not be able to avoid shedding tears when I see the body of the missing person that has waited for such a long period of eight months in cold waters," Kyodo quoted Hotta as saying.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda also said: "I have the impression that they (U.S. Navy) have been doing all they can.

"They have been considerate toward the families of the victims, and have made maximum efforts. We are satisfied with the way they have been dealing with the issue," he said.



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