Tuesday, November 27, 2001

Ehime Maru
victim’s photos
offer final glimpse

The family of the only victim still
missing finds some solace in vivid
memories of their 17-year-old son

By Rosemarie Bernardo

Takeshi Mizuguchi captured his 17th-birthday celebration on a digital camera in the Ehime Maru on Feb. 7.

Little did his parents know, it would be the last image of their son. Two days later, a submarine collided with the fishing training vessel, killing Takeshi.

Tatsuyoshi Mizuguchi and Chihoko Nishida were among the three victims' families allowed to view the Ehime Maru finally being put to rest 12 miles south of Kalaeloa on Sunday. Eight of nine victims' bodies, except Mizuguchi's, were recovered during a 20-day search.

Divers were able to recover the student's school uniform, glasses, wallet and the digital camera that recorded his last days spent on the vessel.

"It's a gift for us," said Mizuguchi, who did not expect images downloaded from the camera's memory stick to be visible after the camera lay underwater for more than eight months.

Since the collision occurred, Mizuguchi said, "people tend to read my facial expression. ... We appear to be in peace, but at the same time we feel the opposite.

"We don't want to stay in a dark place for a long time."

Along with the digital images of their son, Mizuguchi said, "we have memories of our son that will live within us for a long time."

Shots captured on camera also include some of the others who died on the Ehime Maru. Mizuguchi plans to make copies to give to the victims' families.

The father of the student said he plans to visit Hawaii on a regular basis to be closer to his son emotionally and spiritually.

He thanked the U.S. Navy, the consul general of Japan and Hawaii residents for their continued support and efforts in the recovery operation.

"I do have a little bit of regret that my son wasn't found. But we do appreciate it greatly," he said.

Mizuguchi said that since the collision occurred, he and his wife, Yoshiko, struggle to continue with their daily routines.

"Work helps," he said.

Their 14-year-old daughter, who visited Hawaii a week ago, is "living as well as she can," Mizuguchi added.

He is expected to return to Japan today and plans to return to Hawaii in February for the dedication of the Ehime Maru memorial at Kakaako Waterfront Park.

The widow of engineman Hiroshi Nishida also witnessed the Ehime Maru being laid to rest but was left feeling uneasy.

"The closure wasn't there," said Chihoko Nishida, who was married to Hiroshi Nishida for 16 years.

"I feel relieved, but in my heart there is no point when I can look ahead," she said.

Nishida first found out about the accident through her 13-year-old son. At first she did not think it was a bad collision, she said. Nishida called Uwajima Fisheries High School and found out it was serious.

Household chores have been a daily challenge for Nishida since the loss of her husband.

"I'm not motivated to do anything," she said.

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