Friday, November 16, 2001

U.S. Navy divers swam alongside the Ehime Maru recently
during recovery operations off Honolulu Airport. The final
search of the vessel, which ended yesterday, was conducted
by 30 military divers from Japan.

Japanese divers
declare end to
Ehime Maru search

The mother of the last missing teen
says he is now watching the area

By Gregg K. Kakesako

Following one last search of the sunken Japanese training vessel Ehime Maru, military divers from Japan decided yesterday that the body of Takeshi Mizuguchi, a 17-year-old student from Uwajima Fisheries High School, was no longer in the ship.

The 190-foot, three-level Japanese training vessel sank quickly about nine miles off Diamond Head in February after it was rammed accidentally by a U.S. nuclear attack submarine. The U.S. Navy later moved it to shallow waters off Honolulu Airport so it could be searched.

Rear Adm. William Klemm, who heads the Navy's recovery operations, said the 30 Japanese military divers entered the vessel 101 times since Nov. 8, spending 70 hours in the ship retracing areas already searched by Navy divers.

The dives by the Japanese Self-Defense Force divers followed 425 other missions by 60 Navy and six Japanese civilian divers since Oct. 15, who together spent 333 hours in the water and found eight of the nine missing Japanese men and boys who went down with the ship.

The U.S. operations ended Nov. 6, and the Navy left it up to the Japanese government to make the last inspections.

"We believe that that search was both thorough and complete and that the possibility of any remains being on ship at this time is near zero," Klemm said.

The two-star Navy admiral said he met with Mizuguchi's parents yesterday after he was informed by the captain of the Japanese submarine rescue vessel Chihaya at 2 p.m. that the Japanese government had ceased its search operations.

Klemm said Yoshiko Mizuguchi told him that she felt her son was "here in Hawaiian waters and that he was watching this operation. He will remain in Hawaiian waters to watch out for all of the seamen in this area."

The Mizuguchis plan to return to Ehime prefecture before the Navy begins the final stages of the recovery, Klemm said.

Klemm said the Navy will begin the environmental cleanup this weekend and start preparing to move the Ehime Maru 22 miles to its final site 12.5 miles off of Kalaeloa in 8,000 feet of water.

Klemm said the Navy hopes to be ready by Nov. 27 to move the Ehime Maru, which it will suspend 90 feet below the Crowley 450-10 barge. Klemm estimated that, weather permitting, it could take up to two days to raise and move the Ehime Maru to its final resting place.

At yesterday's news conference, Counsel General Minoru Shibuya expressed his "highest appreciation to the U.S. Navy and the Japanese Maritime Defense Forces."

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