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Monday, February 12, 2001

By FL Morris, Star-Bulletin
Relatives of missing Japanese nationals who were aboard a
fishing training vessel that sank on Friday after it was hit
by a U.S. nuclear submarine walk toward a tour boat
to travel to the collision site.

Tour boat takes
relatives to the site
of the tragedy

The fate of nine missing
is still unknown

Ship recovery under consideration

By Leila Fujimori

Relatives of the nine people missing after the sinking of a Japanese training vessel boarded the Navatek I tour boat this morning on a trip to the site 10 miles south of Diamond Head where a nuclear submarine collided with the Ehime Maru.

The U.S. government paid for the trip, which was requested by the families.

Uniformed Navy escorts also were on board for what was estimated to be a three and a half-hour trip.

Also today, nine Japanese high school students and one of their teachers who were among the 26 survivors of the sinking were to return to their island home of Shikoku on board a Japan Airlines flight at noon.

They go not knowing the fate of four fellow students, two teachers and three crew members who are feared lost at sea.

Relatives of the missing have one major concern: "Why did this happen?" said Soichiro Takahama, deputy superintendent of Ehime Prefecture's Board of Education last night at a press conference at the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii.

"I feel that the families are frustrated by the fact that the ship still cannot be salvaged," Takahama said.

The families expressed a strong desire to have the vessel immediately brought up since there is a great possibility some crew members remain trapped in the sunken boat, he added.

Yesterday morning, 27 relatives and five government officials arrived in Honolulu. Their expenses are being taken care of by the Navy.

They were greeted by top military officials when they arrived at Honolulu Airport and were put on a tour bus on the tarmac away from reporters.

By George F. Lee, Star-Bulletin
Relatives of the crewmen and students of the lost Japanese fishing
training vessel Ehime Maru arrived at the Coast Guard Station at
Sand Island yesterday for a briefing on the continuing search
and recovery operations. They arrived in the Islands yesterday
morning. The Navy is paying their expenses.

The families initially were briefed at the Pagoda Hotel by Yoshiaki Sakurada, a Japan vice minister of foreign affairs, and Minoru Shibuya, Japanese Consul General.

Some wept as boat captain Hisao Onishi and school Principal Ietaka Horita explained what had happened, Takahama said.

Later in the afternoon, families were given a private briefing at the Coast Guard station on Sand Island.

As they walked in, many held books and papers in front of their faces trying to hide their grim expressions.

Some women shielded their faces with their hair.

Behind closed doors, the families were briefed by the Coast Guard, the Navy and the National Transportation Safety Board.

"They were very appreciative of the efforts that we put into it," said Coast Guard Capt. Steven A. Newell, Chief of Operations for the 14th Coast Guard District.

He said that the families were aware that the Coast Guard had put their best training, assets and people into the search and rescue mission.

But as they walked out, family members appeared more stricken than when they went in.

A couple of women walked out crying.

Another choked back tears. One hid behind another holding a handkerchief to her eyes.

The other 16 survivors are staying in Hawaii for the time being.

They went to buy clothes yesterday, having lost all their possessions when the Ehime Maru sank.

The survivors were debriefed last night by a task force of the Japanese foreign ministry and U.S. National Transportation Safety Board investigators at the Ocean Resort Hotel Waikiki.

A psychiatrist sent by the Japanese government provided counseling services.

Principal Horita said it had taken up until yesterday for the boys to settle down emotionally.

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