NAVY ends search for final victim of Japanese vessel sunk by U.S. submarine

Thursday, November 8th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

HONOLULU (AP) _ The Navy has ended its recovery effort at the site of the Ehime Maru wreck, giving up hope of finding the ninth and final victim of a collision involving a U.S. submarine and the Japanese training fishing vessel.

Divers involved in the $60 million effort were unable to locate the remains of Takeshi Mizuguchi, a 17-year-old Uwajima Fisheries High School student, Rear Adm. William Klemm, the operation's commander, said Wednesday. Mizuguchi's family was informed Tuesday that the search was being called off, Klemm said.

Family members had given 24 pink roses to Navy officials to thank them for their efforts.

``That is a measure of kindness and class that goes beyond anything I have ever seen in my life,'' Klemm said. ``Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Mizuguchi family.''

Nine men and teen-age boys went down with the Ehime Maru when it was rammed Feb. 9 by the USS Greeneville, which was demonstrating a rapid-surfacing drill. Twenty-six others were rescued.

The wreckage was moved to shallower water so divers could search for the dead. The first body was found Oct. 16; the eighth was recovered Oct. 25.

``I think we leave this project with an empty part in our heart for their families,'' Klemm said.

Divers also recovered 1,500 to 2,000 personal items, Klemm said.

After fuel is drained from the Ehime Maru's tanks, the ship will be taken out to sea and allowed to sink, Klemm said.