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The Honolulu Advertiser

Updated at 4:15 p.m., Thursday, October 11, 2001

Attempt to lift Ehime Maru stalled today

Advertiser Staff

The Navy may still attempt to raise the Ehime Maru tonight in what is expected to be a three- to four-day transit to a shallow-water recovery site. But rough seas and the inability of a remotely operated vehicle to connect some rigging stalled the operation earlier today.

“Yes, we’re hoping to go ahead,” Cmdr. David Wray, a spokesman for the operation, said at mid-morning today. “The weather’s not too bad.”

Work was proceeding this morning to connect the top and bottom frames for the lift, Wray said.

Rear Adm. William Klemm, head of the salvage and recovery mission, said Tuesday the Navy was waiting for calmer seas before attempting the unprecedented recovery.

Crew members aboard the civilian recovery vessel Rockwater 2 last night were still coupling four heavy cables and a top lifting frame to a lower spreader assembly suspended over the 830-ton Japanese fisheries training vessel.

The Ehime Maru remains upright in 2,000 feet of water nine miles south of Diamond Head. It sank Feb. 9 when the Greeneville, a fast-attack Navy submarine, rammed it during a surfacing drill. Five crew members of the Ehime Maru and four high school students aboard were killed in the accident.

Klemm said the effort could proceed only if swells did not exceed 6 feet. Recent stormy weather produced 8- to 10-foot waves and 30-knot winds.

Klemm said the 14.5-mile haul to the shallow-water site off Honolulu International Airport’s reef runway will be excruciatingly slow because of the necessity of keeping the Ehime Maru directly beneath the Rockwater 2 and 90 feet above the ocean floor while it is being towed.

When the transit is completed, the ship will be left to settle for two to three days at 115 feet before divers attempt to recover any bodies. The dive operation is expected to continue for 33 days.