Fishermen killed in collision honored

Kyodo

Family members and locals Thursday memorialized the deaths of two fishermen killed in a collision a year ago between a small fishing boat and a Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer off Chiba Prefecture.

Local fishermen set to the sea to make offerings in memory of Haruo Kichisei and his son, Tetsuhiro, who were on the fishing boat, the Seitoku Maru, while their family held a memorial service in Katsuura, Chiba Prefecture, where the fishermen were based.

Adm. Kenjiro Handa, commandant of the MSDF headquarters of the Yokosuka District in Kanagawa Prefecture, also attended the service and pledged he would strive to prevent a recurrence.

Eitaro Geki, 80, who heads a fishing association in Katsuura said, “I want the Self-Defense Forces to be careful so they don’t cause another catastrophic incident like this as many ships pass through the waters off Chiba Prefecture.”

Earlier Thursday, 55-year-old Yoshitsugu Ichihara, skipper of the Kimpei Maru, a fishing boat that was sailing near the Seitoku Maru at the time of the accident, made offerings in memory of the two victims in waters near the collision site.

Kichisei, 58, and his 23-year-old son disappeared after the 7.3-ton Seitoku Maru was run over by the 7,750-ton Atago on Feb. 19 last year off the coast of Nojimazaki. They were later declared dead.

In Tokyo, Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura said at a press conference, “On behalf of the government, I apologize from the bottom of my heart to the next of kin and people related to the accident.”

Vice Defense Minister Kohei Masuda separately offered prayers for the victims, saying he acknowledges the accident should not have happened as the SDF are supposed to protect life and property.

Masuda said the ministry is in the process of calculating the amount of compensation to be provided to the family of the fishermen based on the national redress law.

The Yokohama Marine Accident Tribunal declared last month that shortcomings by the Atago’s watch standers were the main cause of the collision.