Japanese victims' families pursue claims against U.S.

Divers find 8 bodies in sunken fishing vessel

October 28, 2001|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

HONOLULU - As the Navy's $60 million effort to retrieve bodies from the sunken Ehime Maru nears completion, with eight out of nine recovered, the victims' families are pursuing claims against the U.S. government for the accident, a Navy spokeswoman confirmed yesterday.

Claims for damages have been filed on behalf of family members and survivors of the Feb. 9 collision between the Ehime Maru and the U.S. submarine Greeneville, said Lt. Pauline Storum of the Navy's Office of Information. Ehime prefecture is also seeking compensation for the loss of the Ehime Maru.

The Navy will not disclose how many claims were received or the dollar amounts, out of respect for the families' privacy, Storum said. The claims were given to U.S. military representatives in Japan. Families have the option to file suit if the claims are not settled.

In Hawaii, the unexpected recovery of an eighth body from the sunken Ehime Maru this week has given divers hope that they will also find the last missing student who perished when the Greeneville suddenly surfaced under the fisheries training vessel.

Based on last sightings before the ship went down, the Navy had expected to find up to seven victims. "The divers are very motivated to getting 100 percent [of the crew]," said Capt. Christopher Murray, the Navy's supervisor of diving.

The most recent body identified was that of teacher Hiroshi Makizawa, whose wedding ring was found in an earlier dive and given to his widow, Mika. They have a 4-year-old son.

The 66 divers who have been probing the compartments of the ship were to be given their first day off today since dives began Oct. 15. Working from a barge that serves as a dive platform, they have searched two-thirds of the 190-foot vessel. They will resume working tomorrow, hoping to complete the job by the end of the week.

Five of the victims' families left Honolulu on Friday to return home, carrying the cremated remains of their loved ones.

In its effort to make amends for the accident, the Navy has spent $60 million on the recovery effort, $20 million more than expected. The Navy accepted complete responsibility for the collision.

Investigators determined that the submarine's captain, Cmdr. Scott Waddle, rushed his crew and failed to perform an adequate periscope search before the nuclear submarine surfaced under the Ehime Maru. The surfacing maneuver was performed for the benefit of civilian guests.

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