A fisheries school in western Japan on Wednesday marked the 20th anniversary of a collision between a school training boat and a U.S. nuclear submarine off Hawaii that claimed the lives of nine people from the ship.
Around 260 people including survivors and relatives of the victims observed a moment of silence at Uwajima Fisheries High School in Ehime Prefecture at 8:43 a.m., the exact time when the Greeneville collided with the Ehime Maru. A bell retrieved from the sunken ship was tolled nine times, once for each victim.
"I hope all of you will not forget this painful and sad event, and make (the accident) an opportunity to think about the importance of life," school principal Seiji Takechi said during the memorial service.
Shoken Fukumoto, a second-grader at the high school, said a recent collision between a Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force submarine and a commercial vessel in the Pacific Ocean off Kochi Prefecture had reminded him of the Ehime Maru accident. Ehime and Kochi are both on the western main island of Shikoku.
"I had no knowledge of the (Ehime Maru) accident until I entered this high school because it happened before I was born, but I felt angry because I heard it was caused by a U.S. failure to confirm (safety)," the 17-year-old said. "We will continue the memorial service next year and beyond."
Participants took measures to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, including wearing face masks and social distancing. They offered white chrysanthemum flowers in the ceremony.
A similar memorial event was held in Honolulu on Tuesday local time, with Hawaii Gov. David Ige sending a message of condolence, but the event was scaled down compared with past years due to the virus pandemic.
Ahead of the anniversary, retired Cmdr. Scott Waddle, 61, the captain of the 6,080-ton nuclear submarine, said he was "solely responsible" for the collision in a letter of apology to the families of the victims that was made public earlier this week.
The collision occurred in waters off Hawaii's Oahu Island on Feb. 9, 2001, when the U.S. submarine, which had civilian visitors on board, was performing a rapid-surfacing drill. Among the 35 people aboard the Japanese training vessel, four students, two teachers and three crew members were killed.
A U.S. transport authority report released in 2005 concluded that Waddle's hasty order for the surfacing drill caused the submarine to ram into the Ehime Maru.
It condemned the Greeneville crew, in particular the commanding officer, for their failure to adequately manage the civilian visitors, saying their presence had impeded operations.