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Ceremony marks 10th anniversary of Ehime Maru sinking

By William Cole

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 10:30 p.m. HST, Feb 09, 2011


More than 265 people, including U.S. Navy representatives and victims’ relatives from Japan, attended a 10th anniversary observance today of the Ehime Maru tragedy.

The observance was held at the Ehime Maru Memorial at Kakaako Waterfront Park.

Nine people aboard the Ehime Maru, a fisheries training ship, died when it sank nine miles south of Diamond Head in 2001 after the U.S. Navy submarine USS Greeneville hit the ship from below during a demonstration of the sub’s emergency surfacing ability.

The victims included four high school students from Ehime Prefecture.

At 1:43 p.m. today — precisely 10 years after the collision —  participants observed a moment of silence at Kakaako Waterfront Park.

The name of each of the nine victims was read aloud as a bell tolled.

In opening remarks, a speaker said it is “altogether right” to commemorate the tragedy, but said it cannot divide us.

Family members of seven of the nine victims were present. Fifteen floral wreaths were placed at the anchor that is the centerpiece of the memorial.

"Even though I cannot describe how the last 10 years have been to us, when I come here ... and see this magnificent ocean it makes my heart calm," said Tatsuyoshi Mizuguchi, who lost his 17-year-old son and spoke for the families.

Of the nine killed, Mizuguchi's son, Takeshi, was the only one whose remains could not be found inside the sunken ship that came to rest on the ocean floor in 2,000 feet of water.

Tatsuyoshi Mizuguchi has visited Hawaii numerous times since the collision to mourn his son. He thanked volunteers who help maintain and clean the memorial and all the visitors who have paid their respect throughout the years.

"I believe that the nine spirits who rest here feel less lonely and are comforted by them," Mizuguchi said. "I am so grateful for all of you who help us heal our pain and grief with your warm support and love."

The Ehime Maru’s sister ship, the Kaiyu Maru, is in port. Its 42 students and 28 crew and teachers attended the 10th anniversary observance.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie and former Gov. George Ariyoshi were in attendance, as were many media members from Japan. The gathering today was about three times larger than previous Ehime Maru anniversary observances.

 

The Navy's investigation into the incident concluded that the Greeneville's captain, Cmdr. Scott Waddle, rushed through mandatory safety procedures while demonstrating an emergency surfacing drill for the benefit of civilians touring the 360-foot nuclear-powered submarine. The sub's rudder sliced into the hull of the Ehime Maru.

The Navy and Waddle apologized following the highly publicized accident, although not as quickly as the victims' families wished. Waddle was reprimanded by a military court of inquiry but was allowed to retire with full rank and pension.

The Navy teaches a case study of the accident at its submarine officer training school to prevent similar incidents.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.






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