EHIME MARU: 5 YEARS LATER
Mayor Hirohisa Ishibashi of Uwajima, Japan, prayed yesterday in front of the Ehime Maru Memorial at Kakaako Waterfront Park with victims' families and friends in the background.
Time passes, hurt remains
Families of victims of a sub accident at sea return for a memorial
THE FAMILIES of three people who died when a Navy submarine rammed into a Japanese fishing vessel five years ago gathered yesterday at a park overlooking the Pacific where their loved ones perished.
The mothers, fathers, daughters and sons of the victims bowed their heads for a moment of silence at 1:43 p.m. -- the same time the USS Greeneville hit the Ehime Maru on Feb. 9, 2001.
Tatsuyoshi Mizuguchi said he has visited Hawaii 15 times since the collision to be near his son, Takeshi. The 17-year-old was the only one of the nine who died whose body was not found after the collision some 13 miles off Oahu.
"My son never came home, so I want to be as close to him as possible," Mizuguchi said before the brief ceremony at the Ehime Maru Memorial at Kakaako Waterfront Park.
The families and their supporters draped leis around steel posts at the site in honor of the dead. The U.S. Pacific Fleet Submarine Force sent red anthuriums.
The families later tossed flower petals and chocolate into the sea in an offering to Takeshi Mizuguchi.
Miyako Sakashima of Japan, mother of drowned Ehime Maru student Toshiya Sakashima, prayed.
The teenager boarded the Ehime Maru with fellow students and instructors from Uwajima Fisheries High School for a training mission on how to fish. There were 35 people on board at the time of the collision.
Takako Segawa, daughter of the boat's radio operator, said she believes her father's spirit returned to the accident site yesterday because he was someone who felt a strong sense of responsibility for caring for others.
"It's been five years, but it feels like it was yesterday," she said. "I feel like maybe he's just at sea and he'll come home."
Her father, Hirotaka Segawa, always said he might go down with his ship if it ran into trouble because it was his job, as a communications chief, to signal for help, she said.
"There were witness accounts of him in the control room, so I suspect he was radioing for help until the end," Segawa said.
A Navy investigation found the Greeneville hit the Ehime Maru after the submarine's captain, Scott Waddle, failed to properly use sonar and periscopes to look for nearby ships before surfacing.
The cities of Honolulu and Uwajima have since become sister cities, and the states of Ehime and Hawaii have become sister states to try to forge something positive out of the tragedy.
Shuzo Seike, the deputy director of the Uwajima City Tourist Society, said the people of Uwajima hoped to keep memory of the incident alive.
"Time has most likely stopped for those who are gathered here," he said at the ceremony. "Our biggest wish is to imprint this accident, which should never again be repeated, in the memories of as many people as possible."