The body of a Japanese high school student was among three victims found by Navy divers amid the wreckage of the sunken Japanese fishing ship Ehime Maru.
Katsuya Nomoto, 17, was identified Thursday by a medical examiner. Naval and Japanese consulate authorities notified Nomoto’s family that his body had been identified by dental records and that the cause of death was drowning.
“I’d like to tell him, ‘You’re finally coming home,’ ” Akiko Nomoto, Katsuya’s mother, said from her home in Uwajima, Japan, the Kyodo News agency reported.
Kazumitsu Joko, vice principal of Uwajima Fisheries High School, told reporters: “Although it is good that his body was found, the whole thing is regrettable.”
Nine Japanese men and boys were killed Feb. 9 when the fishing vessel was rammed by the U.S. submarine Greeneville.
Earlier, the medical examiner identified the body of Hirotaka Segawa, 60, the ship’s chief radio operator.
“I want to bring the body of my father back home as soon as possible,” Segawa’s daughter, Takako Segawa, said in a nationally televised interview from her home in Miura, a port city near Tokyo.
Divers expected to bring the third body to the surface early today for identification.
The Ehime Maru was moved to shallow water near Honolulu after it sank in 2,000-foot deep water about 15 miles offshore. Sixty-six U.S. and Japanese divers are involved in the operation.
Those entering the ship must move dislodged mattresses, tables, wires and lockers. Up to 15% of the vessel has so far been searched but authorities warn that some of the nine bodies may never be recovered.
“There has been nothing that we have run across or found over the course of the last 24 hours to change our expectation,” Lt. Cmdr. Gregg Baumann said.
Members of the first of the families are expected to arrive in Honolulu this weekend to collect their relatives’ remains. The Navy is paying funeral and travel costs.
After the bodies and personal effects are recovered, diesel fuel and other hazardous items will be removed from the wreckage in a monthlong operation.
Japan’s Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi telephoned Adm. Thomas Fargo, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, on Thursday, thanking him for the Navy’s efforts.
“I would like to express my gratitude to the Navy doing its utmost in salvaging operations, taking into consideration the feelings of the families of the missing Japanese and the Japanese people,” a Foreign Ministry official quoted Koizumi as telling Fargo.