• Kyodo

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Relatives of nine Japanese lost at sea in the Feb. 9 sinking of a Japanese ship by a U.S. Navy submarine thanked Hawaiians on Wednesday for their kindness and consideration, while apologizing for any offense their grief may have caused.

“After the recent accident we received various forms of assistance from the people of Hawaii, and for this we are thankful from the bottom of our hearts,” the families said in a letter in English released by the Japanese Consulate General in Honolulu.

The letter was addressed to the people of Hawaii on behalf of all the families of the missing from the Ehime Maru, a high school fisheries training ship. It was released one day after the conclusion of the 12-day open part of the Navy’s investigation into the accident.

“We were very grateful to receive your words of comfort and words to give us courage when we were in deep grief,” the letter said. “We were encouraged by your kind thoughts and slight though it may be, we are thinking to look to the future.”

The families said their resentment over what happened on Feb. 9 is not aimed at the people of Hawaii or America.

“We are worried that, in our grief, we might have been somewhat thoughtless and impolite. If that is the case, we would like to deeply apologize,” they said.

Ten relatives of the missing were in Honolulu for the final day of the Court of Inquiry, which allocated six seats for them throughout the proceedings. Three left Honolulu on Wednesday, and the remaining seven were to return home Thursday.

“We fervently pray that such a tragic, unreasonable incident will never happen again. It would be best if we could work together to reach this goal,” the letter said.

Four teenage students from Uwajima Fisheries High School in Ehime Prefecture, two of their teachers and three crew members of the 499-ton Ehime Maru are missing, presumed dead.

The ship was struck and sunk by the 6,080-ton Greeneville while the sub was demonstrating an emergency-surfacing drill for 16 civilian guests on board.

During the inquiry, Cmdr. Scott Waddle, former captain of the Greenville, a nuclear attack submarine, acknowledged responsibility for the accident but also blamed his crew.

Waddle testified Tuesday that he decided to take the stand under oath and without immunity as “this court and the families need to hear from me . . . and because it is the right thing to do.”

He later told reporters that by testifying, he was keeping a promise he made to the families of the nine Japanese lost at sea “to help them understand the cause of the accident and achieve closure.”

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