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Tuesday, February 20, 2001

Salvage decision may take weeks

Two Navy deepwater robots probe
the wreckage of the Japanese
training ship sunk by a U.S. sub

By Gregg K, Kakesako

Bullet Salvage decision slow
Bullet Ehime mayor coming in
Bullet Video shows damage
Bullet Japanese leaders meet
Bullet Sub captain mum
Bullet Tenn. town support

The Navy says a decision on whether to raise the Ehime Maru may be several weeks away despite repeated requests and pressure from the Japanese government and relatives of those lost when the fishing trawler sank.

In Japan, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda said Japan has formed a committee and plans to send experts from shipbuilding and salvaging companies to help with any effort to raise the ship.

In Honolulu, the Japanese continued to press for an apology from Cmdr. Scott Waddle, skipper of the 360-foot USS Greeneville, the submarine that hit and sank the Ehime Maru.

The state House also was considering a resolution offering its regrets and sympathies to the Japanese people, the families and the fishing school in Uwajima.

Associated Press
The Ehime Maru is docked at Aloha Tower two days before it
collided with the USS Greeneville. This is a copy of a
photograph taken by a Miyazaki Prefecture
fishing school student.

The latest request will be made tomorrow by Moriyuki Kato, governor of Ehime prefecture where the Japanese vessel and its crew came from, when he calls on Adm. Dennis Blair, Pacific Forces commander. Kato also hopes to meet Adm. Thomas Fargo, Pacific Fleet commander.

Kato planned to meet with family members who are still in Hawaii.

"For the sake of the victims, I strongly request (the U.S.) to raise the ship," Kato said before leaving Japan.

The Greeneville, meanwhile, was taken to Pearl Harbor's Naval Shipyard this morning for "a detailed, thorough and exhausted look at its whole and associated systems," said Lt. Cmdr. Dave Werner, Submarine Forces' spokesman.

The Greeneville suffered what the Navy has said was minor damage to its rudder and to the left side of its hull just aft of the sail. The rudder was stripped of its paint and showed scoring marks. Werner said Greeneville's stay in drydock will be dependent upon the extent of repairs needed.

Two deep diving unmanned probes, Deep Drone 7,200 and Scorpio II, are currently checking the waters 10 miles south of Diamond Head looking for debris and remains of any of the nine missing people -- four 17-year-old students and two teachers from the Uwajima Fisheries High School in southwest Japan, and three crewmen.

Yoshishige said the two unmanned drones, equipped with sonar and color video cameras, have combed 160,000 square yards after finding the 190-foot Ehime Maru sitting on the bottom 2,003 feet down Friday night.

The vessel appeared intact and upright.

"Isolated items such as life raft containers, small boxes, work clothing and foodstuffs were located in the vicinity of the ship," Yoshishige said.

Associated Press
Dents on the body of the Ehime Maru are seen in this
video released by U.S. Navy to the relatives of the nine missing
people. The image of the sunken ship was filmed by the
unmanned Navy submersible Super Scorpio II
in water about 2,000 feet deep.

No remains yet found

But no remains of the crewmen or the students were found.

The families have implored the U.S. government to continue to search the seas above the Ehime Maru until the bodies are recovered.

Yoshishige said the underwater survey is needed to collect data necessary to determine the feasibility of raising the 499-ton fishing vessel. This could take up to several days.

"The analysis of the survey data and the development of salvage options, if any, is expected to take several weeks," he added.

Also assisting in the underwater search is a special sonar scanning device.

A Navy salvage expert last week ruled out the possibility that fishing vessel could be raised by inflated balloons.

Still pending is the start of a high-level Court of Inquiry on Thursday at Pearl Harbor, where three of the Greeneville's officers will face questions why they failed to detect the Ehime Maru before before performing an emergency surfacing maneuver Feb. 9.

Associated Press
Damage can be seen to the Ehime Maru in this image of the
sunken ship was filmed by the unmanned Navy submersible
Super Scorpio II in water about 2,000 feet deep.

The Navy panel consisting of three admirals could recommend to Adm. Thomas Fargo, Pacific Fleet commander, that the three face a court-martial for gross negligence or dereliction of duty.

That could mean that Waddle, Greeneville's captain since March 1999; Lt. Cmdr. Gerald Pfeifer, executive officer; and Lt. j.g. Michael Coen, the officer of the deck, could face prison terms. Coen was the watch officer and in charge of the emergency surfacing maneuver.

Waddle, relieved a day after the accident, was demonstrating an emergency main ballast tank blow for 16 visiting civilians. Since then, the Navy has suspended such demonstrations for visiting civilians, pending the outcome of the investigation.

Ehime captain to attend court

The captain of the Ehime Maru also plans to attend Thursday's hearing. The Navy also has invited a Japanese admiral to sit in as an observer.

Jon Yoshishige, Pacific Fleet spokesman, said: "The U.S. government will make a decision on the salvage of the Ehime Maru based solely on technical feasibility."

During the rapid ascent to the surface, two of the 16 civilians were at critical control operations and worked controls that steered the 360-foot to the surface.

But the civilians have said that the submarine was always under the control of qualified Greeneville crew members.

Waddle was believed to have brought the Greeneville to about 50 feet below the surface and scanned it by sonar and periscope.

The Greeneville is believed then to have dropped to 400 feet, where Waddle ordered the emergency maneuver in which compressed air is pumped into the ballast tanks, forcing water out, and propelling the submarine irreversibly to the surface at 35 miles per hour.

The 6,000-ton submarine rammed the Ehime Maru with the force of an unexploded torpedo.

Submarines are required to practice this maneuver at least once a year.

The Ehime Maru left Japan Jan. 10 and arrived here Feb. 6. Three days later, a little after 1 p.m., the Ehime Maru was believed to have been going 11 knots and at a heading of 166 degrees. The Navy has never said what Greeneville's speed or heading was at the time of the collision, which took place about an hour later 10 miles south of Diamond Head.

Ehime governor will
personally appeal to raise
sunken boat

MATSUYAMA, Japan-- Ehime Gov. Moriyuki Kato left Japan today for Hawaii to directly ask U.S. authorities to raise the Ehime Maru.

Kato departed from Kansai International Airport for Honolulu, accompanied by Ehime Prefectural Assembly President Nagatoshi Tanimoto, prefectural officials said.

The governor also will visit and console families of the nine men who are believed drowned.

The officials said Kato told the Japanese Consulate General in Honolulu he wants to meet Adm. Dennis Blair, head of U.S. forces in the Pacific, and Adm. Thomas Fargo, who leads the U.S. Pacific Fleet.

"For the sake of the victims, I will strongly request (the U.S. to raise the ship)," Kato said before leaving

The Ehime Maru, from Uwajima Fisheries High School in Ehime Prefecture, went down after being hit by the 6,080-ton sub off Oahu.

Associated Press
Damage can be seen to the Ehime Maru in this image of the
sunken ship was filmed by the unmanned Navy submersible
Super Scorpio II in water about 2,000 feet deep.

New footage shows
belongings, cracks
on Ehime Maru

Kyodo News Service

Relatives of the nine people missing since the sinking of a Japanese ship detected what appeared to be their loved ones' belongings in 18 hours of video footage of the sunken ship.

Families yesterday saw helmets, boots and bags scattered on the seabed near the 499-ton Ehime Maru, a fisheries training vessel that sank Feb. 9 after being hit by the 6,080-ton nuclear submarine USS Greeneville.

The families watched parts of 14 videotapes between 11 a.m. and 8 p.m.

The footage was released at the request of the families, who were dissatisfied with the 35-minute edited video footage shown to them Saturday.

The newly released footage included close-ups of scars, cracks and dents on the sunken ship, which belonged to Uwajima Fisheries High School in Ehime Prefecture, western Japan.

Four students and two teachers from the school, as well as three of the ship's crew, went missing after the collision while 26 others were rescued.

Kenji Terata, whose nephew Yusuke, 17, is among the missing, said the families saw two major dents near the ship's bow that were not included in the 35-minute footage seen Saturday.

Some of the families said they suspect the U.S. Navy initially showed them the edited footage because there were portions it did not want them to see. They were critical that information was being released in a piecemeal fashion.

"I want a specialist to examine this footage and pinpoint the cause of the accident," Terata said.

The footage was taken by the Navy's remote-control Scorpio-II submersible.

The submersible found the ship Friday on the seabed 2,000 feet underwater off Oahu. It has not found the bodies of any of those missing.

Kazuo Nakata, 55, father of missing 33-year-old teacher Jun Nakata, said he hopes the sunken ship will be raised as soon as possible.

"Although experts point to difficulties, I believe conditions are good because the ship's body seemed not severely damaged," he said after seeing the video footage.

Of the missing people's relatives who arrived in Hawaii after the collision, 16 people from six families remain on Oahu.

Visit to Japan port by USS McCain postponed

Japanese anger over the Ehime Maru sinking has caused the Navy to postpone a visit by the destroyer USS John S. McCain to Otaru in Hokkaido later this month.

The McCain, which used to be homeported at Pearl Harbor, was supposed to visit the port today through Friday, but the visit was postponed after the sinking.

No new date has been set for the McCain's visit. The ship is stationed in Yokosuka, Japan.

Japanese TV station pulls 'Godzilla' off air

TOKYO -- A Japanese television station today postponed airing the movie "Godzilla" over fears that scenes of the monster attacking fishing boats could remind people of the Ehime Maru tragedy.

Nippon Television Network Corp (NTV) had planned to broadcast the movie March 2, a company spokeswoman said today.

But NTV postponed the airing indefinitely out of sensitivity to victims of the Feb. 9 collision.

In the opening of the 1998 film, Godzilla emerges from the ocean to attack and sink Japanese fishing boats in rough seas

Star-Bulletin staff and news services

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