An environmental assessment on the possible dangers involved in raising the 499-ton Ehime Maru from where it sits 2,003 feet on the ocean bottom nine miles south of Diamond Head is being studied by Navy, state and federal officials.
Navy, feds and state
weighing dangers of
raising Ehime Maru
By Gregg K. Kakesako
State officials from the Department of Land and Natural Resources also are trying to determine whether a conservation use permit would be needed to move the 190-foot vessel to state waters. At one point, shallower waters near the reef runway were under consideration.
The Navy's initial plans call for spending $40 million to gradually raise the sunken ship to shallower waters -- about 90 feet -- where salvaging operations could take place using divers.
The families of the nine missing people believe their loved ones are still entombed in the vessel.
The Ehime Maru, with a passenger and crew manifest of 35, was believed to have a full load of 90,000 gallons of diesel fuel and 3,300 gallons of lube oil when it sank Feb. 9 after being struck by the USS Greeneville, a Los Angeles-class attack submarine.
The Navy needs to know if raising the ship would cause a spill, Jon Yoshishige, Navy spokesman, said. "It's a very complex process that requires careful, detailed planning and may take several months to complete," Yoshishige said. "Although we will move expeditiously in this process, we will ensure it will be done comprehensively and correctly."
Meanwhile, the 16 civilians from five states riding on the Greeneville Feb. 9 told the National Transportation Safety Board they were impressed with the professional way the Greeneville was run and were never told not to talk about the tragedy.
The morning after the accident, John Hall said, sub Cmdr. Scott Waddle came into the sub's ward room where several of the civilians had spent most of the night.
"Listen, this is an international incident," Waddle told them, said Hall. "It's a tragedy, and I don't know what's going to happen here. But I will tell you that you need to just tell the truth, not embellish the truth."
Susan Nolan and her husband, Michael "Mickui" Nolan, were the only people from Hawaii on board. She said Rear Adm. Albert Konetzni, Pacific Fleet Submarine Force commander, was so emotional when he debriefed the group at Pearl Harbor upon their return that he cried.
Konetzni told the civilians that they were free to talk and that the Navy was not going to release their names.
Later, under pressure from the media and once the preliminary investigation was completed, the Navy did release their names.
Transcripts released by the NTSB also disclosed the identities of the civilians who were at key Greeneville control stations at the time of the collision. Hall already has been identified as the person who was at the main ballast control panel and pulled the two levers that initiated the emergency main ballast tank blow.
He was told to count out loud for 10 seconds and then move the two levers back up and locked into position, his moves closely watched by a Greeneville crewman.
Sitting at the helmsman's position was Jack Clary, whose hands were intertwined with a yeoman's on the yoke (the submarine's steering wheel).
Jack and Pat Clary were not originally slated to go out on the Feb. 9 cruise, which was set up just to take the civilians to sea, a violation of Navy rules.
Jack Clary said he and his wife, Pat, were invited by Waddle on Feb. 8 after touring the Greeneville at its berth in Pearl Harbor.
Hall said planning for the trip began a year ago. Hall's Texas company was trying to organize a golf tournament with supporters of the USS Missouri battleship association. The Navy League golf tournament was supposed to be held in January, but it was canceled.
In discussing the golf tournament, Hall said he found out that civilians were allowed on trips on surface warfare ships and submarines.
He said that it was Michael Nolan who contacted retired Adm. Richard Macke, former Pacific Command commander, to organize the Feb. 9 trip.