Search for ship survivors resumes as hopes fade
HONOLULU, Hawaii (CNN) -- Rescuers on Sunday scoured an area of the Pacific Ocean the size of Rhode Island in search of survivors of a Japanese fishing research vessel that sank after being hit by a U.S. nuclear submarine.
Nine of the 35 aboard the Ehime Maru remained unaccounted for after Friday's collision with the USS Greeneville. The submarine was practicing an emergency ascent when it slammed into the bottom of the Japanese ship off Honolulu.
Hopes of finding the survivors were fading early Sunday despite the intensive effort.
"We are going to continue searching as long as we think there's any hope," Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Jack Laufer told CNN on Sunday.
Two U.S. Navy ships, a Coast Guard cutter and Navy aircraft scoured the seas overnight. But searchers using night-vision goggles found no additional debris in the 1,400-square-nautical-mile area, Laufer said. Efforts were to intensify at daylight Sunday, when two Coast Guard aircraft, "a couple more" surface craft as well as a Japanese tall ship were to join the effort, he said.
Conditions were good in the search area, with a water temperature about 77 degrees Fahrenheit (25 Celsius), winds calm and visibility up to seven miles (11 kilometers).
The Greeneville, a 360-foot (110-meter) attack submarine, was on a routine one-day training mission Friday afternoon when it conducted an emergency surfacing drill -- a maneuver that empties the vessel's ballast tanks and brings it to the surface with great force.
The 180-foot (55-meter) Ehime Maru sank within 10 minutes of the collision, its captain, Hisao Onishi, said Sunday at a news conference in Honolulu.
"The ship went down without tilting, almost straight down," Onishi said Saturday. "We couldn't get the life rafts out and were washed into the sea."
'We could not find the nine'
The trawler had been carrying fisheries students who were learning commercial fishing techniques. It sank in 1,800 feet (549 meters) of water, nine miles (14 kilometers) south of Diamond Head, off Honolulu.
Those missing are four 17-year-old fisheries students, two of their teachers and three crew members. Officials fear all may have gone down with the ship. The other 26 people aboard were rescued.
"No matter what we did, we could not find the nine," Onishi said.
"There was no way we could seek any help, since all the electricity was off," he added. "The radio did not work, either. So I presume the submarine made a U-turn and stopped near us and presumably notified the local Coast Guard."
Ietaka Hotta, principal of the Uwajima Fisheries High School in southwestern Japan, offered his apologies to his students' families and the nation.
"When I think of the relatives, there are no words that can express my apologies," Hotta said. "All I can think of is that they are alive. All I can say now is please forgive me."
Sub skipper reassigned
Investigations are under way by the U.S. Navy, Coast Guard and National Transportation Safety Board. The skipper of the Pearl Harbor-based Greeneville, Cmdr. Scott Waddle, has been reassigned for the duration of the inquiry.
During a 50-minute meeting in Osaka, Foley expressed his concern to the students' families and teachers and wished them a safe journey as they left for Hawaii. Foley's trip to Osaka followed a visit by the ambassador to Yoshiro Mori in the Japanese prime minister's residence earlier in the afternoon.
Powell expressed his regret over the collision.
"We'll do everything we can to find out what happened and present that information to the public. We are very regretful that this incident took place," Powell said.
"We are doing everything we can for the families," he added.
Rumsfeld said Sunday: "All I can say to the families and to the people of Japan is that we feel deep regrets about the incident, and we'll do everything humanly possible to determine what actually took place."
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