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Ship wreckage found of US submarine collision

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February 18, 2001 


HONOLULU-- (AP) - A deep-sea robot has found the wreckage of a Japanese fishing vessel that sank when a Navy submarine tore through it while surfacing more than a week ago, Navy officials said Saturday.

"All we can do is confirm that a remote-operated vehicle has located the Ehime Maru," said Jon Yoshishige, a spokesman for the U.S. Pacific Fleet.

The agency's Web site said the fishing boat was found at 11:29 p.m. Friday (1030 GMT Saturday) sitting nearly upright in 2,033 feet (609 meters) of water, approximately 1,000 yards (910 meters) from the collision site.

"The United States has informed Japan that they have found the ship, in one piece, lying parallel to the ocean floor," Kazuhiko Koshikawa, a spokesman for Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori said Saturday.

He added that he was not aware whether sonar scanning indicated if victims remained inside the vessel.

The missing include four high school students, two teachers and three crewmen from the commercial fishing training vessel, operated by Uwajima Fisheries High School. Twenty-six were rescued after the collision.

A Navy support ship on Friday had lowered the remotely operated deep-diving vehicle, the Super Scorpio II, into the ocean nine miles (14 kilometers) south of Diamond Head to begin a search for the Ehime Maru.

The unmanned submersible is equipped with sonar and two video cameras, and has a limited recovery capability.

Meanwhile, Japanese family members made an anguished and angry plea for answers about why the USS Greeneville crashed into the Ehime Maru on Feb. 9.

At times sobbing and shouting, 16 relatives spoke publicly about the tragedy for the first time Friday at a news conference on the University of Hawaii campus, demanding to know why civilians were allowed at key controls of the Greeneville when it surfaced.

They also urged officials to continue with the search until all missing bodies were found.

"It's your responsibility as human beings," said Masumi Terata, mother of 17-year-old Yusuke Terata. "If your blood is red, you'll understand our pain and sorrow."

The fishing vessel sank minutes after the Greeneville surfaced underneath it during an emergency rapid-ascent drill. Two civilian guests were at control stations of the submarine during the maneuver.

The Navy said Friday it is barring civilians from submarines during emergency surfacing drills while investigators try to determine how the submarine slammed into the vessel.

A preliminary report on the incident was expected in the next few days, according to Pentagon officials.

The relatives, speaking Japanese, released a list of 31 questions they want the United States to answer. Included in the list are questions about who was steering the submarine at the time of the collision and why the Greeneville crew did not "do their best" to assist survivors immediately after the sinking.

Navy officials have said rough seas prevented the submarine crew from bringing survivors onboard.

"Do you let the civilians experience the emergency blow to let them enjoy the thrill of a roller coaster ride?" one question said. "Will you continue such a foolish `leisure land tour' in such areas with many yachts and boats?"

Shizuko Kimura, younger sister of crew member Toshimichi Furuya, cried loudly.

"My brother is at the bottom with the Ehime Maru," she said. "I'm not asking you to bring him back alive. So please bring back my brother's body to us."

Reversing its earlier decision, the Coast Guard said it has extended its search for bodies at least through the holiday weekend. On Friday it added two cutters, a helicopter and a Navy plane to the sole Navy cruiser that had been searching the day before.

Relatives said it's not enough.

"A week has passed, but we know so very little," said Shoko Takagi, sister-in-law of Jun Nakata, one of the missing crew members.


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