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Saturday, February 10, 2001

By George F. Lee, Star-Bulletin
Despondent survivors of the Ehime Maru leave the
U.S. Coast Guard Station at Sand Island after eating
and taking showers last night. They were taken to a
hotel in Waikiki. Most of those on board had just
eaten lunch when they heard the first explosion.
The ship sank in minutes.

‘They heard voices
screaming that water
is coming in’

9 missing off Waikiki
after Navy sub hits
Japanese training ship

Bullet The missing and injured
Bullet 'I am alive'
Bullet Uwajima agonizes
Bullet Surfacings always dangerous

By Gregg Kakesako,
Rick Daysog
and Gordon Y.K. Pang

The nuclear attack submarine that sank a Japanese fishing ship yesterday 10 miles south of Diamond Head was practicing an emergency surfacing procedure when it collided with the Ehime Maru, the Navy said today.

Nine people are missing from the Japanese vessel, which is operated by the Uwajima Fisheries High School. Of the missing, four are high school students, two are teachers and three are crew members, the Coast Guard said. A search for them went through the night and continued today.

Relatives and the principal of the school were to arrive today and tomorrow. The Navy has set up an office at the Ala Moana Hotel to assist the families. Twenty-six survivors have also been put up at the hotel.

Click image for larger version.

Admiral Thomas Fargo, Pacific Fleet Commander said at a press conference today that the USS Greeneville was practicing a procedure called "emergency main ballast blow" when the collision occurred. However, Fargo, who is also a submariner, said there was no emergency at the time.

Fargo said that under normal submarine operations, which the Greeneville was operating under, a submarine will surface 9 to 12 miles off the coast before returning to Pearl Harbor. He said the sub commander normally does an acoustical and visual search to see if there are any ships in the area.

"I believe this happened in this case," Fargo said, but he said he doesn't know why the collision occurred.

Ehime Maru crew members told U.S. Coast Guard officials that they were surprised by the collision. They said there was a ship-rattling explosion that was followed by larger and more extended booms. Then the power went out. Minutes later the Ehime Maru lay at the bottom of the ocean.

"They heard voices screaming that water is coming into the ship," said Michael Carr, a U.S. Coast Guard petty officer first class who spoke with several of the survivors. "That's when they all started to flee to the upper deck. It was a disorganized abandon-ship."

The Navy, Coast Guard and National TransportationSafety Board were to begin investigations. The incident falls under the NTSB's jurisdiction because it occurred in U.S. waters and involved at least one private vessel, said spokesman Ted Lopatkiewicz.

By Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
The damaged portion of the submarine's tail section
is visible as the USS Greeneville enters Pearl Harbor
today. The submarine is nuclear powered but does
not carry nuclear weapons.

Fargo said that Rear Admiral Charles Griffiths, commander of Submarine Group Nine in Bangor, Wash., will convene a Navy inquiry board.

The Coast Guard has already searched a 1,453-square-nautical-mile area south of Oahu for the missing people from the Japanese ship. Four Navy and Coast Guard ships and five Navy and Coast Guard helicopters and aircraft are assisting in the search.

None of the 130 submarine crew members were injured.

The USS Greeneville, a Los Angeles-class submarine returned to its Pearl Harbor homeport this morning. Fargo said damage to the sub was to the rudder which had a rusty red appearance as the submarine made its way down the Pearl Harbor channel today.

The Greeneville's skipper is Cmdr. Scott Waddle of Austin, Texas, who graduated from the Naval Academy at Annapolis in 1981. Waddle also served as executive officer on the nuclear submarine USS San Francisco and completed two deployments to the western Pacific in that capacity.

Fargo said there was slight damage to the side of the submarine, where scrapes were visible on the left side behind the superstructure, but "nothing to impair operations."

Web site file photo
The Ehime Maru.

Fargo called the incident "tragic and regrettable."

"I offer my apology to all the families involved and the government of Japan."

President Bush sent "regrets and condolences" to Japan.

Secretary of State Colin Powell telephoned Japanese Foreign Minister Yohei Kono this morning "to convey his regrets and apology and also the president's regrets and condolences," said David Denny, a State Department spokesman.

The Ehime Maru sank at 1:45 p.m. in 1,860 feet of water.

Coast Guard Lt. Greg Fondran said that the Coast Guard received a distress call from the submarine at about 2 p.m. and received an emergency signal from the ships beacon at the same time. He said the Coast Guard was on scene withing 25-minutes.

The Coast Guard is no longer receiving a signal from the Ehime Maru's beacon, he said.

He said as time passes, there is a concern that hypothermia will affect any possible survivors.

The Coast Guard said the search for survivors continued through the night using spotlights and night-vision goggles. It said that those rescued so far were not wearing life jackets.

By George F. Lee, Star-Bulletin
The USS Greeneville, water cascading from a scrape
to the sub's body, at the accident scene at sea.

The Greeneville was not able to assist immediately with the rescue because of rough seas, Fargo said. He said there were large swells from 3 to 6 feet at the time.

"Because of the swells, the crew was not able to open hatches and take available survivors on board," he said.

Twelve people were sent to local hospitals, said Robert Pedro, district chief for city Emergency Medical Services.

Four were admitted to Straub Clinic and Hospital and three of them were discharged by 8 p.m. Akira Kagajyo, 22, remained at the hospital but is in stable condition, said Straub spokesman Jim Rudosky.

Eight boys and men, ages 15 to 59, were taken to Kaiser Medical Center were treated and released.

Sunk in two or three minutes

Hiroyuki Hosokawa, one of the teen-age survivors from the Ehime Maru, talked briefly about the collision at sea last night while in the emergency-room hallway of Kaiser Medical Center.

Hosokawa, who was inside the cabin, said he felt two jolts while aboard the vessel. When he walked outside, the lower level of the boat was filled with oil.

It took only two or three minutes after that for the ship to sink, recalled Hosokawa, wearing a hospital shirt and a towel.

Those treated and released at Kaiser went through decontamination, including flushing of the eyes and ears. They were checked to see if fluid, such as diesel fuel, had entered their bodies.

Most of the Ehime Maru crew had just completed their lunch and were in the ship's galley or in their rooms below when they heard the first explosion, said the Coast Guard's Carr.

The second explosion was followed 15 seconds later by a power blackout after which crew members were heard screaming that the ship's engine room had taken on water, Carr said.

Associated Press
This image from television shows what appears
to be damage to the hull of the USS Greeneville, a
nuclear-powered submarine, at the water line below
the conning tower, following the collision with
a Japanese ship.

At one point, the Ehime Maru's captain attempted to go on the ship announcement system to order crew members to abandon ship, but he was unable to do so on because of the blackout.

"They heard voices screaming that water is coming into the ship. That's when they all started to flee to the upper deck," Carr said. "It was a disorganized abandon-ship."

According to Carr, the Ehime Maru's life rafts deployed automatically while the ship was sinking. Some of the students had to wade through the ship's engine room with the cuffs of their pants rolled up, indicating that the water was filling up quickly.

"Most of them who were in the rooms fled up to the bridge level, which is the highest level. Some had to jump a little ways, some just swam ... the water came up to them. And they just kind of made their way through the water levels," Carr said.

Several walked onto the nearby life rafts while others jumped into the diesel-filled waters and swam short distances to the rafts.

It took the Ehime Maru less than 10 minutes to sink, Carr said.

Crew members fight tears

As they waited in vans to go to the hotel last night, several crew members fought back tears while one crew member openly wept and covered his face with a white towel. Carr said: "I overheard them talking among themselves, saying, 'I saw so and so, I saw this person and saw this person and I haven't seen them since.' "

Fourteen of the people rescued were taken to the U.S. Coast Guard facility on Sand Island, where they were provided with showers, food and warm clothes.

The group was obviously shaken by the ordeal at sea, but as time went on they regained their composure and were in good spirits, said Red Cross spokeswoman Jocelyn Collado.

The men were offered fruits and milk and they drank "lots and lots of coffee," Collado said. They were also given blue overalls and towels.

Coast Guard spokesman Greg Fondran said the men were all wet and dripping with diesel oil when they first arrived.

The men had to take turns calling Japan because there was only one phone in the room. Several of them were able to get in touch with their families, said Collado.

Executive Petty Officer Tommy Kron, who was on board the 41-foot rescue boat, said the Japanese boat was already completely under water and could not be seen when his crew arrived at around 3 p.m.

The area was surrounded by about 100 to 200 yards of diesel fuel, Kron said. None of those retrieved had life jackets, he said.

15 civilian guests on sub

Initial reports from the scene indicated there were life rafts in the water with people on board when rescuers arrived, the Navy said. The fishing boat subsequently sank and there was no visible damage to the Greeneville, the Navy said.

Navy Cmdr. Bruce Cole of the U.S. Pacific Fleet said the USS Greeneville had been on a routine training operation. There were 15 civilian guests on board the vessel. The ship left Pearl Harbor at 8 a.m. and was originally supposed to return to port at 3 p.m.

The Ehime Maru left Pier 9 at Aloha Tower about noon and was headed for fishing grounds about 200 miles south of Oahu and then to Japan.

The Ehime Maru left Japan on Jan. 10 to hunt for tuna, swordfish and shark. The Uwajima Fisheries High School is located in the southwestern Japanese state of Ehime, where a crisis center has been set up.

The Greeneville was commissioned in February 1996. It is 360 feet long, has a diameter of 33 feet and displaces 6,900 tons submerged.

The crash is the second major accident involving a Navy vessel near Hawaii in seven months. The USS Denver, a 570-foot amphibious transport dock ship, was preparing to receive fuel from the USNS Yukon, a Military Sealift Command oiler, when the two vessels collided.

Powell's apology was the second time in three days, the United States has apologized for an incident between the U.S. military and Japanese civilians.

On Thursday, the top U.S. Marine in Japan personally apologized for calling Okinawan officials "a bunch of wimps" in an e-mail to his staff. The remark was related to an Okinawan court ruling that ordered a U.S. Marine arrested last month for allegedly lifting a high school girl's skirt and snapping photos.

Star-Bulletin reporters Harold Morse,
Janine Tully, Rob Perez and Leila Fujimori
and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

 | | |

Nine aboard Ehime Maru missing after collision

TOKYO - Following is a list of the names and ages of nine people who are missing after the Japanese fisheries training vessel Ehime Maru sank after colliding with the U.S. Navy nuclear-powered submarine Greeneville yesterday off Hawaii.

The nine include four students from Uwajima Fisheries High School in Ehime Prefecture, two instructors and three crew members.

Bullet Toshiya Sakashima, 17, student
Bullet Yusuke Terata, 17, student
Bullet Katsuya Nomoto, 17, student
Bullet Takeshi Mizuguchi, 17, student
Bullet Hiroshi Makizawa, 37, instructor
Bullet Jun Nakata, 33, instructor
Bullet Toshimichi Furuya, 47, chief engineman
Bullet Hirotaka Segawa, 60, chief radioman
Bullet Hiroshi Nishida, 49, engineman

12 students, crew taken to hospitals

Twelve people on the Ehime Maru were taken to hospitals on Oahu yesterday.

Eight were treated and released at Kaiser Permanente Moanalua Medical Center. All were in stable condition when they arrived at the hospital.

Four people were taken to Straub Hospital and three were released about 8 p.m. yesterday. One patient was kept for observation because he was feeling sick.

Among the 12 people taken to hospitals were:

Bullet Choichiro Yokoyama, 17
Bullet Hideyaki Hamamoto, 50
Bullet Maso Murai, 51
Bullet Sakichi Atsuta, 50
Bullet Shukuo Nakamura, 59
Bullet Yosuke Iketari, 17
Bullet Atsushi Kamado, 16
Bullet Hiroyuki Hosokana, 17
Bullet Akira Kagajyo, 22

Staff and wire reports

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