Search ends for last Ehime Maru victim
HONOLULU, Hawaii -- Navy divers have ended their search inside the wreckage of the Ehime Maru for the body of the last of the nine victims who died when their fishing ship was accidentally sunk by a U.S. Navy submarine earlier this year.
Rear Adm. William Klemm, deputy chief of staff for maintenance of the U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, told reporters that divers have halted recovery efforts after 425 dives to the Japanese fishing vessel.
The search and recovery operation for the bodies of the victims began October 15, a day after salvage engineers successfully moved the ship to a shallow location.
The navy divers have spent a total of 333 hours diving, and have recovered eight bodies of the nine Japanese crewmen, teachers, and students who died in the incident, Reuters news agency reported.
All of the bodies were returned to their families, Klemm said.
Not completely successful
The $60-million operation was not a complete success.
"Success in terms of numbers, yes, success. Success in addressing all the families, no. And I think we leave this project with an empty part in our heart," Klemm said.
The only person whose body was not found is Takeshi Mizuguchi, a 17-year-old student. Klemm said Mizuguchi's relatives were told Tuesday that their son's body would likely never be found.
Navy divers had hoped to find the last body and morale remained high throughout the project, Klemm said.
"Everyone was strongly motivated," he said. "Every one of them was very proud of what they did and every one of them was very sad they didn't find the ninth member."
The Ehime Maru vessel from the Uwajima Fisheries High School sank February 9 about nine miles (14.5 km) south of the Hawaiian island of Oahu after being accidentally rammed by the submarine USS Greeneville during a surfacing maneuver.
Nine of the 35 people aboard the Japanese fishing vessel were killed during the accident.
The accident soured U.S.-Japan relations already strained by atrocities supposedly committed by Japanse-based United States servicement against Okinawans.
The Navy promised to do everything it could to recover the bodies but failed to immediately launch a recover operation since the 830-ton ship sank in waters too deep for recovery divers to reach, and had to be moved.
Japanese divers from the JDS Chihaya will now conduct follow-up dives and inspect the ship before it is moved to a site in 6,000 feet of water, Reuters news agency reported.
Klemm said the navy hopes to place the Ehime Maru in its final resting place, weather permitting, by the end of November.
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