"We're not talking about it right now to anyone," Carol Brehmer says. "We're not doing any interviews." Nine of the trawler's 35 passengers apparently died in the collision February 9 near Honolulu, although their bodies remain missing. Among the presumed dead are four teenage boys from the Ehime Maru, a Japanese fisheries training ship for high school students.
The U.S. Navy initially kept secret the civilians' names and denied that the visitors could have caused the collision, which occurred as the submarine completed an emergency surfacing drill. Later, one of the Greeneville's crew members claimed civilians prevented him from doing his job of tracking position of the 499-ton Japanese boat before the craft sustained massive damage from the wreck with the 6,080-ton submarine. Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori said it was "extremely regrettable" that nonmilitary guests were "crowding" the submarine's control room during the accident.
Jay Brehmer, who lives with his wife in in Overland Park, is a founding father of Aquila Energy Capital Corporation, a financial service corporation formed three years ago as a subsidiary of the $6.4 billion gas and electricity service provider Aquila Incorporated of Kansas City. Aquila Incorporated itself is a subsidiary of Kansas City's more recognizable UtiliCorp United.
Aquila -- whose name rhymes with "gorilla" and is Latin for "eagle" -- promotes itself as one of North America's fastest-growing wholesale energy companies specializing as a "risk merchant."
Brehmer started Aquila Energy Capital with cofounders Anthony Schnur of The Woodlands, Texas, and Ken Wyatt of Golden, Colorado. All three men were on the Greeneville excursion with their spouses. Also aboard were golf tournament promoters Mickey and Susan Nolan of Honolulu. John M. Hall, an energy company executive from Sealy, Texas, reportedly "pulled the ballast-control levers that started the submarine's ill-fated ascent toward the surface."
The Nolans released a statement that says, in part: "From our observations we feel that the civilians aboard did nothing to interfere with the professional conduct of the crew in the performance of their duties, and we do not believe that this accident was in any way caused by any neglect or carelessness."
The Nolans may have earned their tickets on the Greeneville by contributing to the USS Missouri Memorial Association and helping sponsor a charity golf tournament for the sunken Pearl Harbor battleship. Susan Nolan said all the civilians aboard the Greeneville were involved with the golf tournament.
Hall and another Greeneville civilian, Todd Thoman of Houston, appeared on the Today show to recount the incident, but the three civilians who work for Aquila have made few public statements. "I think most people know this is a personal thing with three people [Brehmer, Schnur and Wyatt] who were on vacation," says UtiliCorp spokesman Al Butkus. "There is nothing [to say] from the company's vantage point, but we can understand the position they are in because of the situation."
Jay Brehmer says he is cooperating with investigations into the accident (launched by the Navy and the National Transportation Safety Board), and after findings are released, he will be willing to discuss what happened on the submarine. Says Brehmer, "It's been very difficult."