the Japanese fishing boat
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Tue Feb 20 14:18:50 MST 2001
Sub Commander Refuses Questioning
By Jaymes Song
Associated Press Writer
HONOLULU -- The commander of the U.S. submarine that sank a Japanese
fishing vessel has refused to discuss the accident with investigators from
the National Transportation Safety Board until the Navy completes its
investigation, officials said on Monday.
NTSB investigators met with Cmdr. Scott Waddle over the weekend when he
told them his lawyer recommended he only respond to written questions from
the NTSB for the time being and only about search and rescue efforts, NTSB
spokesman Ted Lopatkiewiscz said.
Waddle's information could be crucial to the NTSB effort to determine how
the USS Greeneville failed to detect the 190-foot Ehime Maru before it
conducted an emergency rapid-ascent drill nine miles south of Diamond Head
on Feb. 9.
The Ehime Maru, a commercial fishing training vessel, was headed toward
fishing grounds 300 miles southeast of Oahu when the Greeneville crashed
into it. The submarine tore through the hull of the ship, sinking it within
minutes. The vessel was found by underwater probes Friday night in 2,000
feet of water.
The ship was on a two-month training trip with students from a Japanese
high school. Twenty-six people were rescued but nine have not been found -
three crewmen, two teachers and four students.
The Navy announced Saturday it would conduct a court of inquiry - its
highest-level administrative investigation - to focus on the actions of the
Greeneville's three top officers: Waddle; its executive officer, Lt. Cmdr.
Gerald K. Pfeifer, and the officer of the deck, Lt. j.g. Michael J. Coen.
Three admirals will oversee the hearing, which could lead to
courts-martial, said Adm. Thomas Fargo, commander in chief of the Pacific
Fleet. The board is scheduled to convene Thursday.
The hearing is expected to examine the presence of 16 civilian guests on
the submarine, two of whom, supervised by crew members, were at key
controls when the Greeneville made its rapid ascent. One pulled the levers
that initiated the drill.
On Monday, the Navy and Coast Guard continued the search for the nine missing.
"At this point, it's going to go on indefinitely," said Coast Guard
spokesman Eric Hedaa. "We have no plans to discontinue the search."
A deep-sea robot was also combing the ocean floor to evaluate the
feasibility of raising the 500-ton Ehime Maru. Japanese officials and
families of the missing are pressing the United States to salvage the ship
if that is the only way to recover bodies that may be entombed in its hull.
© Copyright 2001 The Associated Press
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