The bodies of 10 victims — seven men and three women — were found earlier Sunday
Rescuers searching since a tour boat carrying 26 people apparently sank off far northeastern Japan have found the body of an 11th victim — a child — as questions intensify about why the vessel sailed in rough weather at a known hazardous location.
Coast Guard officials said that the child was later confirmed dead after being found late on Sunday. The bodies of 10 victims — seven men and three women — were found earlier Sunday.
Two crew members were taking the Kazu 1 along with 24 passengers on a scenic tour of Shiretoko National Park, Japan’s northernmost main islands, when it received a distress call on Saturday afternoon indicating that it was sinking.
This was located near Kashuni waterfall, which is known for its difficult terrain and strong tide.
The Transport Ministry is looking into the operator of the boat, Shiretoko Pleasure Cruise. This boat had been involved in two accidents last year. One also involved the captain. The ministry stated that it was investigating safety standards and the decision not to hold the tour in bad weather. Japanese media reported that the Coast Guard was looking into criminal charges for professional negligence.
Shiretoko Pleasure Cruise received instructions to improve its safety in the wake of earlier accidents. In June, the boat sank without causing any injuries. In May, the boat struck an object and caused minor injuries to three passengers. In June, the captain of the sunken vessel was also involved in the accident.
“We will thoroughly investigate what caused this situation and what kind of safety oversight was involved to allow the tour in order to prevent another accident,” Transport Minister Tetsuo Saito, who visited the area Sunday, told reporters.
The three-hour Shiretoko Pleasure Cruise tour provides views of the Shiretoko Peninsula’s western coast and offers the chance to spot whales, dolphins, and brown bears. The national park is a UNESCO World Heritage area and is the best place to see drifting ocean ice.
The area’s average sea temperatures are well above freezing in April. Experts claim that the area’s low temperatures and strong winds make survival difficult.
Sunday’s bodies were discovered in the same area, 14 km (8.7 miles) from the point where the boat made a distress call. Some of the bodies were taken from the ocean, while others were washed up on the coast.