Distressed passengers' conversations revealed in report on deadly Hokkaido boat accident
TOKYO -- The Japan Transport Safety Board on Dec. 15 released an interim report on the deadly tour boat accident off Hokkaido's Shiretoko Peninsula in April, including heartbreaking conversations that passengers of the Kazu I tour boat had with their families before it vanished in cold waters.
The report also included images taken from the Kazu I on the day of the accident, which have been recovered from the recording medium left in one of the passengers' cameras that had also sunk together with the boat.
According to the report, the Kazu I left Utoro fishing port in the east Hokkaido town of Shari at around 10 a.m. on April 23. About an hour later, the boat's captain Noriyuki Toyoda, who has since been confirmed dead, told his colleague via a ham radio that he saw a bear. At around 1 p.m., one of the passengers spoke with their family member on their cellphone, telling them that they were going to have lunch after the tour. The report said nothing appeared out of ordinary at this point.
Just five minutes after this, however, Toyoda told an individual related to a different tour boat operator, "We're struggling to pick up speed, so it might take a while for us to get back." He subsequently told them that the situation had worsened, saying, "The boat is taking in water and the engine has stopped."
At around 1:20 p.m., one of the passengers talked with their family on the phone, "The boat is sinking. Thank you for everything." Around the same time, a separate passenger also told their family on the phone, "The boat's nose is submerged and it's about to sink. The water is up to our legs. It's too cold to swim, and we can't jump off the boat, either."
As far as the board's investigation could confirm, these were the last conversations from the Kazu I passengers or crew, and the boat is believed to have sunk shortly after.
The Kazu I boat was carrying 26 passengers and crew members including the captain before it sank off the Shiretoko Peninsula on the afternoon of April 23, 2022. Twenty people have been confirmed dead, while the other six remain missing.
(Japanese original by Shotaro Kinoshita, Tokyo City News Department)