Head of Sunken Tour Boat Operator Questioned on Voluntary Basis

Jiji Press
Fishing boats leave port in Shari, Hokkaido, on Thursday morning to search for people missing since the Kazu I tour boat sank on April 23.

Shari, Hokkaido (Jiji Press)—The Japan Coast Guard has questioned on a voluntary basis Seiichi Katsurada, president of Shiretoko Yuransen, the operator of the Kazu I tour boat, which sank off the Shiretoko Peninsula in the northernmost Japan prefecture of Hokkaido late last month.

The questioning of the 58-year-old head of the company in the Hokkaido town of Shari was conducted several times over a few days, JCG sources said. Katsurada was apparently asked about the communication system at the sightseeing boat operator, among other things.

The Kazu I lost contact on April 23, after the ship carrying a total of 26 people—24 passengers and two crew members—left Utoro Port in Shari on a tour along the peninsula earlier that day. Fourteen of them, all passengers, have so far been found and confirmed dead.

On Friday last week, the Kazu I was found at the seabed some 120 meters deep from the surface about 1 kilometer west-northwest of Kashuni Falls, where the tour boat called for help.

The 1st Regional Coast Guard Headquarters has raided locations related to Shiretoko Yuransen on suspicion of professional negligence resulting in death, looking into the company’s possible fault in safety management.

The JCG, the Maritime Self-Defense Force and the Hokkaido police department are continuing their search for the remaining 12 people using aircraft and ships.

On Tuesday, an underwater camera of the prefectural police entered the sunken boat for the first time, but no clues related to the missing people were found. A JCG underwater camera was used on Wednesday, but no new information was obtained.

The regional headquarters of the JCG on Wednesday released images from the camera, which only showed items such as seats and a life jacket. The JCG and others will examine the videos in detail to figure out the situation inside the sunken Kazu I.

With JCG divers unable to reach a depth of over 60 meters, the JCG has signed up with a private-sector company that has a special technique called saturation diving.

The company is expected to launch its survey of the sunken tour boat within this month.