An accident between the
USS Denver and USNS Yukon
occurred Thursday night
180 miles west of Oahu
Naval mishaps in the '90sBy Gregg K. Kakesako
The Navy says the captains of the troop transport ship USS Denver and the oiler USNS Yukon were on the bridge and about to undertake "a complex refueling and replenishing operation" when a collision occurred Thursday night west of Oahu.
Lt. Flex Plexico, Pacific Fleet spokesman, said an investigation is now under way to determine the cause of the accident -- believed to be the first collision between two naval vessels in at least a decade in Hawaiian waters.
Plexico said he did not know what the sea conditions were when the collision occurred or if there had been any problems with navigational or other equipment.
Major damageThe Yukon, a 41,000-ton oiler, was involved in another collision Feb. 27. It and a smaller civilian cargo ship crashed while trying to enter the port of Dubai in the Middle East, said a spokesman for the Military Sealift Command in Washington, D.C.
Master Mark Wilson was captain of the Yukon during that incident and during the latest crash. The results of the investigation into the earlier crash have not been made public.
The Yukon pulled into the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard this morning with major damage, including several large holes and dents, above the water line on the starboard quarter (right rear side) of the vessel.
USS Denver (LPD-9)
Length: 570 feet
Displacement: 16,550 tons
Speed: 21 knots
Aircraft: Six CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters
Home port: San Diego
USNS Yukon (T-AO 202)
Length: 677 feet
Displacement: 41,225 tons
Speed: 20 knots
Home port: Pearl Harbor
Yesterday, the Denver, skippered by Capt. Charles Webber since September 1998, slowly steamed into Pearl Harbor with a gaping 20-by-25-foot triangular gash in its bow above the water line.
The bow of the 570-foot troop transport looked like it had been scooped out by a giant can opener. Crew members in Navy whites manned the rail of the transport as it moved down the Hickam channel to the shipyard.
Plexico said both the Denver and the Yukon will be berthed at the shipyard while an assessment of the damage is made.
No injuries or leaksThe two vessels were about 180 miles west of Oahu and about to start a refueling mission when the collision occurred at 6:15 p.m.
"Typically, the oiler is generally moving at 12 knots (15 miles per hour), and the vessel that will be taking on fuel or supplies moves up on the oiler and matches its course and speed," Plexico said.
Fuel and other lines are then fired from the oiler to the other vessel, and the two ships try to maintain a separation of 100 to 150 feet while the refueling is carried out.
Wilson, one of 64 civilians hired by the Military Sealift Command to operate the oiler, has more than 20 years of experience. The Yukon's crew also consist of 19 Navy sailors.
The Yukon is one of 13 oilers operated by the Military Sealift Command and crewed by civilians and military men.
No one was injured, and there were no fuel leaks.
The Denver, with a crew of 400 sailors and 800 Marines, was supposed to have docked here yesterday on its way home to San Diego following a six-month Western Pacific deployment.
As one of its last chores, the Denver was to have picked up 176 "Tigers" -- friends and family members -- who were supposed to ride back to San Diego on an orientation cruise.
Now it is unclear how long the Denver will have to be at the shipyard undergoing repairs.
Feb. 4, 1999: The destroyer USS Arthur W. Radford crashes into a Saudi Arabian cargo ship while the Radford is circling a buoy to calibrate electronic warfare equipment about 25 miles east of Virginia Beach. The Radford suffers $32 million in damage, and one sailor is injured.
NAVAL MISHAPS IN '90S
Aug. 18, 1998: The USS Seattle hits the USS America while leaving a slip in Philadelphia, sustaining minor damage. A civilian harbor pilot, not the Seattle's regular pilot, is at the helm during the crash.
March 19, 1998: Two nuclear submarines, the USS Kentucky and the USS San Juan, bump each other during a war game off New York's Long Island.
Oct. 14, 1996: The guided-missile cruiser USS Leyte Gulf crashes into the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt during a training exercise off the North Carolina coast. The crash rips open the front of the Leyte Gulf and heavily damages the rear of the Theodore Roosevelt, causing $12 million in damage.
May 17, 1996: The attack submarine USS Jacksonville crashes into the Saudi Makkah cargo ship in thick fog in Chesapeake Bay. Both ships suffer significant damage but no one is injured.
Source: Star-Bulletin wire reports