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Captain of sunken Japanese fishing vessel returns to Japan

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February 25, 2001 


TOKYO- (AP) - Hours after returning home from Hawaii on Saturday, the captain of the Japanese fishing vessel that was rammed and sunk by the USS Greeneville repeated his demand for an apology from the Navy submarine's commander.

Looking tired and angry, Hisao Onishi told reporters that he was devastated to return to Japan without knowing what had become of the nine people from the Ehime Maru who are still missing and presumed dead two weeks after the collision off the coast of Hawaii.

"As the captain of the ship ... it broke my heart to have to leave behind the missing," he said during a news conference in southwestern Japan.

Onishi demanded a personal apology from the Greeneville's captain, Cmdr. Scott Waddle, who has not made any public remarks in the aftermath of the collision.

The Japanese victims and their families have repeatedly called for some expression of contrition by Waddle, whose silence has become increasingly infuriating following revelations that civilian guests were at the controls of the U.S. sub at the time of the accident.

There were 35 people on board the Ehime Maru, a training vessel for high school students learning to become commercial fishermen, when it was hit by the Greeneville during an emergency surfacing maneuver. Four of the nine missing were students.

Investigations are still trying to determine whether the presence of 16 civilians on the U.S. sub caused mistakes that led to the accident.

In an attempt to cool Japanese anger, Washington is sending a senior Navy admiral to Tokyo next week with a presidential letter and an apology for the sinking of the Ehime Maru.

Adm. William J. Fallon, the vice chief of naval operations, was named "special envoy to Japan" and will arrive in Tokyo with a letter from President George W. Bush to Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori.

Believing that the bodies of the nine missing Japanese are trapped inside the Ehime Maru, Onishi and the victims are pressing U.S. and Japanese authorities to salvage the vessel at all costs.

The U.S. Navy has sent deep-sea robots to the ocean floor 2,000 feet (600 meters) down to see if and how the 500-ton (455-metric ton) Ehime Maru can be raised.

The Ehime Maru belonged to a high school in the city of Uwajima, about 700 kilometers (430 miles) southwest of Tokyo.

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