Saturday, October 27, 2001

Details on Ehime
claims not released

The victims' families have requested
that the information be private

By Gregg K. Kakesako

The Navy doesn't plan to release information about the number of claims filed or the amount sought by Japanese survivors and family members of the Ehime Maru, at the families' request.

So far, the bodies of eight of the nine people who were lost Feb. 9 have been recovered. Seven have been identified and the medical examiner is working on the eighth victim whose body was recovered Thursday.

Lt. Pauline Storum, Navy spokeswoman, also said yesterday she doesn't know if the Navy will even release information concerning any settlement involving the replacement of the 190-foot fisheries training vessel that was hit by the Pearl Harbor-based submarine USS Greeneville Feb. 9 and sank nine miles south of Diamond Head. The Ehime Prefecture is seeking compensation to build a replacement vessel.

The secretary of the Navy has the authority to settle and pay claims in which the settlement does not exceed $1 million and the matter is not in litigation. Claims exceeding $1 million are referred to the U.S. Department of Justice.

The Pacific Command has ready spent more than $11,000 in medical bills to treat 17 survivors. Most of the injuries stemmed from being in water that was saturated with diesel fuel from the sinking vessel. The Navy also has said the unprecedented operation to raise the Ehime Maru and move it closer to shore so divers could search for the nine missing people has cost $60 million, $20 million than originally estimated.

The Navy has recovered the bodies of eight of the missing Japanese teachers and students from the Uwajima Fisheries High School and three Ehime Maru crewmen.

Yesterday, the families of the five victims who have been identified returned to Japan with the cremated remains of their loved ones. They are Hirotaka Segawa, 60, the chief radio operator; Toshimichi Furuya, 47, the chief engineer; Hiroshi Nishida, 49, a first engineer; and two 17-year-old students, Toshiya Sakashima and Katsuya Nomoto.

Remaining in the islands and still closely following the diving operations being held one mile south of the Honolulu Airport's reef runway are the family members of two Uwajima Fisheries School students, Takeshi Mizuguchi and Yusuke Terata, both 17.

Also remaining in the islands are relatives of two Uwajima teachers Hiroshi Makizawa, 37; and Jun Nakata, 33. Makizawa's body was identified yesterday using dental records. Due to the condition of the remains, the cause of death is undetermined, the medical examiner's office said. All the others drowned.

Storum said claims for damages must be filed and settled by Feb. 10, 2003. "If no agreement is reached," she added, "a lawsuit must be filed in a federal District Court by Feb. 10, 2003."

As of yesterday, 65 percent of the ship has been searched. After all of it is searched, operations will shift to clearing the decks of fishing nets and other debris to prepare it to be moved in mid-November to its final resting place 12 miles south of Barbers Point, said Capt. Chris Murray, the Navy's supervisor of diving.

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