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U.S. Navy completes final settlement in Ehime Maru incident

Divers survey the hull of the Ehime Maru in the fall of 2001.
Divers survey the hull of the Ehime Maru in the fall of 2001.

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YOKOSUKA, Japan (CNN) -- Nearly two years after a U.S. nuclear attack submarine accidentally hit and sank the Japanese fishing vessel Ehime Maru, killing nine people, including four high school students, the Navy reached its final settlement with survivors of the victims, the Navy announced Friday.

U.S. officials reached an agreement with families of two of the people killed. Settlements had already been reached with survivors of the other seven and with the 26 who were injured.

Altogether, the Navy will pay $16.5 million, the U.S. Naval Forces office in Yokosuka said.

The move closes a chapter on one of the most embarrassing episodes in the Navy's modern history -- one which greatly strained relations between the United States and Japan.

The nuclear attack submarine USS Greeneville was on a routine training mission on February 9, 2001, carrying 16 civilians who were part of a distinguished visitors program. They were promised "the ride of their lives."

As part of a demonstration, the nuclear-powered submarine performed an emergency surfacing drill. As it popped to the surface it struck the Ehime Maru, a ship half its size. The fisheries training vessel, carrying students and teachers from a fisheries high school in Uwajima, Japan, sank within minutes.

Rescuers saved 26 people.

Later, an exhaustive $60 million operation was launched to find the bodies of those who had died. One was never found.

The submarine's commander, Scott Waddle, and five crew members testified before a court of inquiry.

Waddle, whose career by all accounts had been stellar, was found guilty of dereliction of duty and negligent hazarding of a vessel. He was forced to retire under honorable conditions with his full pension intact.

The others were admonished, counseled, or otherwise punished -- career ending actions for some officers.

Waddle later traveled to Japan to apologize in person.

"I carry that guilt with me each day," Waddle said Friday. It is "the first thing I think when I get up and when I go to bed, and often at night I dream about it," he said.

Having to "give up my command, a job that I love so much, that I worked 20 years to ... achieve, and losing that family, losing 140 men, my crew members, was truly the greatest form of punishment that I could ever face."

-- CNN Producer Chris Weelock contributed to this report


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