HONOLULU – Families of the nine Japanese missing since the Ehime Maru sank after being hit by the U.S. submarine Greeneville lashed out at the U.S. Navy on Friday for not apologizing to them for the incident.
The 16 relatives who attended a news conference in Honolulu showed signs of exhaustion and stress after spending six days here waiting for news about the missing and the location of the 499-ton fisheries training long-liner.
“The accident is inexcusable,” said 45-year-old Ryosuke Terada, whose 17-year-old son Yusuke is one of the four students missing. Referring to the fact that Greeneville’s commanding officer at the time of the accident, Cmdr. Scott Waddle, failed to apologize to the families, he shouted, “If you’re a man, you should fall on your knees and ask for our pardon!”
“We will have no consolation as long as my brother lies on the seabed,” said 41-year-old Shizuko Kimura, a sister of Toshimichi Furuya, the Ehime Maru’s 47-year-old chief engineer. She demanded that the U.S. Navy raise the vessel.
“I want his body back for our mother, who’s waiting for him in Japan,” she said tearfully.
Naoko Nakata, the 36-year-old wife of Uwajima Fisheries High School teacher Jun Nakata, 33, said, “My husband was a funny man who had a great talent for making people laugh. I can’t believe he’s dead.
“Everyday, my child asks me, ‘Have they found Daddy yet?’ and I say, ‘They will for sure.’ I want (the U.S. Navy) to keep looking for him.”
Officials from the Japanese Consulate in Hawaii also wept during the news conference.
The families also said they have sent a letter to U.S. authorities asking if the U.S. Navy was trying to amuse civilians with “roller-coaster thrills” and whether it intends to continue its policy of offering “silly, amusement park-like tours.”
U.S. media have reported that civilians on a VIP cruise aboard the Greeneville were involved in the rapid-surfacing drill that sank the Ehime Maru on Feb. 9 off Hawaii.
Twenty-six people, including nine students, were rescued from the sea, while nine others — four students, two teachers and three Ehime Maru crew members — are still missing.
Student plea to consul
UWAJIMA, Ehime Pref. (Kyodo) Students from Uwajima Fisheries High School on Saturday submitted a petition to a United States envoy calling for the search to continue for the nine Japanese missing since their fisheries training ship was sunk by a U.S. submarine.
Etsuko Yamaguchi, a student council representative, handed the petition of about 140 signatures to Robert Ludan, U.S. Consul General for Osaka and Kobe, asking for the search to go on and for the vessel to be raised as soon as possible.
Ludan visited the 213-student school in the afternoon to apologize for the accident, in which the U.S. Navy submarine Greeneville crashed into and sank the 499-ton Ehime Maru during a rapid-surfacing drill off Hawaii.
School representatives also visited the prefectural government office in Matsuyama to present a copy of the petition to Ehime Gov. Moriyuki Kato.
Freshmen, sophomores and faculty signed the petition. Student council head Futoshi Yamaguchi and others began collecting the signatures early Saturday. Senior students have no classes prior to their graduation next month.
U.S. authorities earlier acknowledged that civilian visitors were aboard the 6,080-ton Greeneville, with at least two of them in control positions at the time of the accident.
The collision, which took place 18 km south of Oahu Island, left nine Japanese — four students and two teachers at the school and three crew members of the ship — missing. The ship was carrying 35 passengers.