Divers Find Way Before Visit To Sunken Ship

Monday, July 02, 2001
U.S. Navy divers who hope to recover bodies from a Japanese fishing vessel accidentally sunk by a nuclear submarine toured a similar vessel to learn more about the rooms and passageways where they will work. Two teams of divers and engineers spent seven hours aboard the Kagawa Maru, which has a floor plan similar to the sunken Ehime Maru, during a port visit to Honolulu Harbor. The Ehime Maru sank in 2,000 feet (610 m) of water on Feb. 9 after being struck by a surfacing submarine, the USS Greeneville, nine miles south of Oahu. Nine people, including four teen-age boys, were never found, and their remains are thought still to be aboard the 750-ton Ehime Maru. Because the boat is resting at too great a depth for divers to work safely, the Navy plans to move it in late August to 115 feet (35 meters) of water, then send divers in to recover remains. "I think there is a high likelihood that there will be remains recovered," said Rear Adm. Bill Klem, chief of maintenance for the U.S. Pacific Fleet and the officer in charge of the ambitious $40 million project. "We do know where all the folks were last seen, and we know where to look. We don't know if we will find all nine missing crew members, but we have a high expectation that we will find some of them," Klem said. The admiral, who also toured the Kagawa Maru on Sunday, said the visit provided a much-needed three-dimensional picture. Part of the problem the U.S. divers will face is that the Japanese boat has narrower passageways and lower ceilings than those on Navy vessels. "This allows them to plot the safest way in and out of the ship," Klem said. "Construction of these vessels is totally different from our U.S. Navy vessels. They now have a visual fix on how to get in and out." - (Reuters)

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