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Monday, February 12, 2001

U.S. Navy considers raising Ehime Maru

So far, authorities have searched
an area roughly the size
of Connecticut

The use of sonar is one of the
aspects of the incident the
probe will focus on

By Treena Shapiro
and Gregg k. kakesako

More coverage:
Bullet Families visit site
Bullet Hawaii shows aloha
Bullet President offers prayer
Bullet Recovery difficult
Bullet Counseling help sought
Bullet Waddle called 'dynamic'

Adm. Dennis Blair, Pacific Forces commander, was to meet with a key Japanese official this afternoon "to reaffirm the strength of the Japanese-American alliance" and to talk about the possibility of salvaging the teaching vessel sunk last week by a nuclear attack submarine.

Blair's meeting with Japanese Foreign Affairs Secretary Yoshitaka Sakurada, who arrived here following Friday's collision between the Pearl Harbor-based USS Greeneville and the Ehime Maru, was to be at his Pacific Command Red Hill headquarters.

Meanwhile, a search continues today for the nine people still missing from the teaching vessel. The Coast Guard said it will search until there is no hope of survivors.

"We are looking to continue the search at this point," a Coast Guard spokeswoman said today.

Family members were to be taken to the collision site 10 miles south of Oahu this morning.

Lt. Col. Christy Samuels, Pacific Command spokeswoman, said the Navy also plans to use a deep-sea remotely controlled probe to investigate.

The 190-foot Ehime Maru went down in about 10 minutes after being struck by the 360-foot submarine, which was performing a maneuver called an "emergency main ballast blow," hitting the Japanese vessel with the force of an unarmed torpedo.

By FL Morris, Star-Bulletin
U.S. military and Japanese officials bow as bus carrying relatives
of the Japanese victims of Friday's submarine and fishing boat
collision is about to drive away at Honolulu International
Airport yesterday.

Blair is expected to discuss with Sakurada the possibility of raising the Japanese vessel, which lies at a depth of 1,866 feet on the bottom of the Pacific, Samuels said. "We certainly want to to do it if we can."

The U.S. admiral also will discuss what the military and the government have been doing to support the survivors.

The Navy maintains several remotely controlled vehicles, one of which is capable of diving to 5,000 feet. That system, called the Super Scorpio ROV I, is designed to meet the Navy's needs for deep-sea recovery. The other drone can dive to 7,200 feet.

Last February, the Navy recovered pieces of the tail section of Alaska Airlines flight 261 using a deep drone remotely operated vehicle . That wreckage was located in 650 feet of water,

Navy personnel from the Navy's Deep Submergence Unit in San Diego recovered the cockpit voice recorder and the flight data recorder using the Scorpio I.

Hawaii shows aloha

Star-Bulletin staff

The Japan-America Society of Hawaii is the coordinating agency for local residents seeking to make contributions to families of victims of the Ehime Maru, destroyed Friday when it collided with the nuclear submarine USS Greeneville.

The First Hawaiian Bank Foundation kicked off the fund with a $10,000 contribution, according to Earl Okawa, the Japan America Society's executive director.

Checks can be sent to the Japan America Society of Hawaii, Ehime Maru Fund, P.O. Box 1796, Honolulu 96806. Checks can also be mailed to First Hawaiian Bank, P.O. Box 3200, Honolulu 96847.

Okawa said the Japanese Cultural Center, the Honolulu Japanese Chamber of Commerce, the United Japanese Society of Hawaii and KIKU-TV are putting the word out to their members and the Japanese-American community about the fund-raising effort.

Contributions likely will be distributed among the Iwajima Fisheries High School and the families of the victims of the Ehime Maru.

"Everyone wants to help and that's why this is a community effort," Okawa said. "We're very concerned. We feel a lot of sorrow for these families."

He added that he is also contacting the National Association of Japan America Societies to alert its 39 member organizations across the United States.

The probe's side-scanning sonar mapped the debris field off the coast of California following the Jan. 31, 2000, crash to provide the National Transportation Safety Board with a complete picture before the salvage operations began. Yesterday, John Hammerschmidt, NTSB member, told reporters at a news briefing that the Navy said three searches were performed -- two visual searches with a periscope and and one using passive sonar -- before the submarine began its ascent to the surface.

The use of passive sonar rather than active sonar is one thing that will be looked at by investigators. Passive sonar searches detect the sound of any propellers. Active sonar searches emit sound waves which will echo from the hulls of vessels.

In 1990, the NTSB recommended the Navy use active sonar prior to coming to periscope depth in areas with high boating traffic after a Navy submarine dragged a civilian tugboat underwater by snagging its tow line during a descent, Hammerschmidt said.

The Navy rejected the recommendation.

Hammerschmidt refused to speculate about whether an active sonar sweep would have prevented the collision and cautioned against drawing correlations between the two incidents.

The NTSB last night began interviewing the nine teenagers who survived the incident. "We're interviewing the students first so that they can go home that much quicker," Hammerschmidt said.

From the interviews with the students and members of the Ehime Maru crew, the board intends to document how they were trained to deal with emergencies, including a review of contingency plans, procedures for abandoning ships and fighting fires, and an assessment of the ship's lifesaving equipment.

Interviews with crew members aboard the USS Greeneville will begin tomorrow, Hammerschmidt said.

A team "will construct a 72-hour profile of key personnel," which will review all human factors which could have led to the incident, including work and sleep patterns, medications and the results of toxicology screenings requested by the Coast Guard. As a routine part of the investigation, members of the submarine's navigation crew were given urine tests to determine any presence of drugs, Hammerschmidt said.

The safety board hasn't yet decided whether or not it will interview the 15 civilians aboard the Navy vessel for an orientation trip, Hammerschmidt said.

By FL Morris, Star-Bulletin
At Honolulu International Airport yesterday, Yoshitaka Sakurada,
Japan's vice minister of foreign affairs, bows to arriving relatives
of submarine collision victims.

He said investigators also hope to learn if the emergency surfacing maneuver was done to impress the civilians.

During an "emergency blow" the submarine is brought to the surface quickly and shoots into the air like a whale breaching. The maneuver on Friday resulted in the Greeneville tearing through the hull of the Ehime Maru, Hammerschmidt said.

Hammerschmidt gave no schedule for the on-scene investigation, but referred to it in terms of days while noting the full-investigation could take a year.

Hammerschmidt said the NTSB does not plan to request that the Navy try to raise the Ehime Maru, which went down in about 1,866 feet of water.

The Coast Guard suggested yesterday that some planning is under way to recover the training vessel since a formal request was made by the Japanese government.

"The salvage effort is an independent effort from other agencies," he said. "The Navy and some private enterprises will be involved, academic and military," said Coast Guard Capt. Steven A. Newell, Chief of Operations for the 14th Coast Guard District, during a media briefing yesterday afternoon.

Newell emphasized that the Coast Guard is continuing a search and recovery mission for the nine missing people and recovery and salvage is not part of that function.

The Coast Guard search and rescue mission, which by yesterday had covered some 5,000 square miles -- roughly the size of Connecticut -- will be re-evaluated every 24 hours, he said.

"We intend to search as long as we feel there's a reasonable hope that we'll find survivors and we will rescue them from this tragic incident," said

Newell said there is no hope that anyone could still survive in the ship 1,866 feet below the surface.

"We have discounted the ideas that there may be people trapped in the hulls and still alive. There is a possibility that the bodies are still in the vessel but we won't know that for sure and we will not suspend our search and rescue efforts on that possibility," he said.

Good visibility, overcast skies, and 10 to 15 mph winds yesterday raised optimism about the missing passengers' chances for survival, although Newell said that a small craft advisory was "not a good thing" for anyone in the water.

Hypothermia is also a concern, Newell said.

At 77 degrees Fahrenheit, it would take about 12 hours for hypothermia to set in, according to U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Tyler Johnson.

"After that, it's really up to the person and his will to live," he said. "After 12 hours, your body is going to really slow down."

Bush offers silent prayer
for victims and families

FORT STEWART, Ga. -- President Bush offered a silent prayer this morning for the victims of the sinking of a Japanese fishing boat by a U.S. submarine.

"Please join me in a moment of silence for those missing, their families, and our friends, the people of Japan," Bush said at the start of a speech to U.S. military personnel stationed outside Savannah, Ga.

He offered a few words to the Japanese people. "I would ask for your prayers for those still missing," the president said, bowing his head.

He did not address the Japanese request that U.S. officials help raise the fishing boat.

PM draws new criticism;
golfed after getting word

TOKYO -- Critics of Japan's prime minister -- and even a leader of his own coalition -- are berating him for finishing a round of golf after hearing about the submarine accident that left nine Japanese missing.

Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori reportedly stayed on the links with old college friends for two hours Saturday after hearing that the USS Greeneville rammed into a Japanese fishing trawler.

"I think he should have stopped playing golf immediately and returned to his office," Takenori Kanzaki, leader of the New Komei Party that is part of Mori's governing coalition, said on a Fuji Television news program.

The national Asahi newspaper reported the golf incident on its front page and quoted Hisao Iwajima, a former Defense Agency official, as saying: "He has no sense of crisis."

Mori reportedly defended his decision to finish the game:."It would not get any of us anywhere if I rushed and got all flustered." Mori is a frequent target of critics. His gaffes -- such as comments evoking Japan's militaristic past -- have become something of a running joke in the country.

Star-Bulletin wire services

USS Greeneville Web site

Ehime Maru (Japanese) Web site

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