• Kyodo


A Japanese fishing boat sank Wednesday morning after being involved in a collision with a Panamanian-flagged freighter off Fukuoka Prefecture, leaving one fishing boat crew member dead and six others missing, the Japan Coast Guard said.

The 135-ton Koyo Maru No. 18 of the Kyowa Suisan fisheries firm, from Sakaiminato, Tottori Prefecture, sank in the Sea of Genkai, about 25 km northeast of Okinoshima Island, after colliding with the Heung A Jupiter at around 2:25 a.m.

Second Mate Yoon Guk Dae, 21, of the freighter was arrested by coast guard officials later in the day on suspicion of professional negligence that endangered traffic.

The Koyo Maru, with 21 crew members, was fishing with four other boats when it was struck by the freighter. All the crew except the six missing were rescued from the sea, but one later died, the coast guard said.

Kazuhiro Yamashita, 43, drowned and was confirmed dead after being taken to a hospital. Eight of the fishermen sustained injuries and were hospitalized in Shimonoseki, Yamaguchi Prefecture, the coast guard said.

The coast guard has sent six patrol boats and a helicopter to the area to search for the missing men, at least two of whom were inside the ship when it was hit.

Five of the rescued crew members have joined the search.

The skipper of the fishing boat, Ryoichi Hazeyama, 34, is among the missing.

The 3,372-ton freighter was en route to Hiroshima from Pusan, South Korea, with a crew of 13 South Koreans and three Chinese. None of them was injured, the coast guard said.

Some of the rescued crew members reportedly said the freighter had not reduced speed or tried to avoid the Koyo Maru before the collision.

According to workers at Kyowa Suisan, the Koyo Maru was unable to escape the oncoming vessel because it had spread its net in a joint operation with other boats.

“(The Koyo Maru) appears to have used a warning horn and spotlights to alert the freighter, but it came straight toward the fishing vessel,” one of the workers said.

Coast guard officials questioned crew members of the Heung A Jupiter to see whether they can be held criminally liable for the collision.

Visibility was good at the time of the collision, the coast guard said.

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