National

Ehime Maru items returned to families

Kyodo

The U.S. Navy on Thursday turned over the recovered belongings of the students and crew of the Japanese fisheries training ship Ehime Maru, including those of the nine who went down with the ship after a U.S. submarine hit it off Hawaii in February.

Survivors of the collision, their families and bereaved families of the nine received some 120 boxes full of belongings at a ceremony held at Uwajima Fisheries High School, which owned the ship, in Uwajima, Ehime Prefecture, school officials said.

The items, recovered by U.S. Navy divers in a three-week salvage operation that ended Nov. 6, included a distress signal transmitter used at the time of collision by Hirotaka Segawa, the ship’s communications chief, and a shirt apparently bought by Hiroshi Makizawa, a teacher, as a gift for his wife, Mika.

Both Segawa, then 60, and Makizawa, then 37, perished when the 499-ton Ehime Maru was struck from below by the 6,080-ton Greeneville on Feb. 9 while the sub was conducting an emergency-surfacing maneuver for the benefit of civilian visitors.

In the ceremony, Rear Adm. Robert Chaplin, commander of U.S. naval forces in Japan, handed over a recovered school flag to Ietaka Horita, the school’s principal. Hisao Onishi, the sunken ship’s captain, received from the commander a bell from the ship’s steering room.

Chaplin told some 70 people including bereaved family members at the ceremony that he hopes the belongings comfort them in their mourning.

A mother of a student lost in the collision, however, told the commander that receiving the belongings would only increase her grief.