HONOLULU – One year after a U.S. Navy submarine struck and sank a Japanese fisheries training ship off Hawaii, some 500 people took part in a ceremony Saturday at which a monument to commemorate the nine Japanese killed was unveiled.
The black granite stone cenotaph, with a circumference of about 3.6 meters, was built in Kaka’ako Waterfront Park in Honolulu and bears an epitaph that names all the victims and prays for peace and safety at sea.
“Our mental anguish from the accident has yet to heal, but I have been consoled by the goodwill and sincerity of many people. I truly hope there will never be another tragic accident like this,” said Tatsuyoshi Mizuguchi, 49, the father of one of the four students killed in the accident.
The 499-ton Ehime Maru sank on Feb. 9, 2001, after being struck from below by the 6,080-ton nuclear sub Greeneville off Hawaii, as the sub performed a rapid-surfacing drill for civilian guests.
Nine Japanese, including four teenage students, aboard the ship from Uwajima Fisheries High School, run by the Ehime prefectural government, died in the accident. Twenty-six others aboard the Ehime Maru were rescued.
Kyosuke Tamai, a 59-year-old alumnus of the school who now works in advertising, designed the monument free of charge, and a stone mason cooperative in Okazaki, Aichi Prefecture, crafted the monument, also for free.
Relatives of the nine victims and four of the survivors attended the ceremony. Among other participants were Ehime Gov. Moriyuki Kato, Hawaii Gov. Benjamin Cayetano and Rear Adm. Robert Willard, deputy commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet.
The sub’s skipper at the time of the time of the accident, Scott Waddle, remained silent on the first anniversary of the tragedy.
Waddle has pledged to visit Japan to apologize to the victims’ relatives for the accident. He was given an honorable discharge from the Navy last September.
His lawyer, Charles Gittins, said last month he has advised Waddle not to go to Japan as he could face arrest in the country.
The remains of eight of the nine Japanese — four 17-year-old high school boys, two of their teachers and three crew members — were recovered in a 20-day search of the ship that ended in November. The body of Takeshi Mizuguchi, one of the students, was not found.
Sub tours continue
HONOLULU (Kyodo) Twenty-five tours for civilians on board U.S. nuclear-powered submarines have been conducted since the collision between a U.S. Navy sub and a Japanese fisheries training ship a year ago, a U.S. Navy official told Kyodo News on Saturday.
Strong criticism was voiced against such tours after the Ehime Maru was struck and sunk by the Greeneville on Feb. 9 last year off Hawaii.
Three of the 16 civilian visitors aboard the sub at the time were involved in an emergency surfacing maneuver the sub was conducting when it hit the Japanese vessel.
But the U.S. Navy maintained that such tours were necessary to help civilians understand the role of the U.S. Navy. It said it would continue to conduct such tours even after the collision.
According to U.S. Navy authorities, the 25 tours were conducted in the Pacific Ocean around U.S. Navy bases in the states of Hawaii, California and Washington.
The total number of civilian guests on the tours is unknown. Though the number of civilians differs depending on the size of the subs, at least three are taken aboard each time, the official said.
The U.S. Navy pledged to improve the content of the tours following the collision, as it was found that the presence of the civilians affected how the crew members conducted their duties.
Nine of the 35 people on board the 499-ton Ehime Maru died after the ship was struck by the 6,080-ton Greeneville. The U.S. Navy retrieved the remains of all but one of the nine victims during a 20-day search last year.