Civilian presence cited in Greeneville collision
The NTSB concludes the sub crew became perilously distracted
Civilians aboard the USS Greeneville did not cause the collision between the Pearl Harbor-based nuclear submarine and a Japanese fishery training vessel, but their presence negatively affected the safety of the sub's operations, according to a federal investigation.
The National Transportation Safety Board released the report yesterday from its investigation of the Greeneville's Feb. 9, 2001, collision with the Ehime Maru, which killed nine people aboard the fishing boat.
The NTSB investigation concludes that the probable cause of the collision was inadequate interaction and communication among the Greeneville's senior officers, which resulted in the crew's failure to perform adequate safety procedures. The report said another probable cause was the commanding officer's decision to order the emergency surfacing maneuver, which was performed for the benefit of the civilians aboard the sub.
"The NTSB report is consistent with our Court of Inquiries findings," said Jon Yoshishige, Pacific Fleet spokesman.
Cmdr. Scott Waddle, the then-skipper of the Greeneville, was relieved of his command, given a letter of reprimand and allowed to retire following the Navy's formal inquiry. The Navy said Waddle cut corners in procedures and that his crew failed to pass on information about the proximity of the Ehime Maru.
Four teenage students, two teachers and three crew members of the Ehime Maru died when the Greeneville sliced through the fishing vessel's hull during a demonstration of the submarine's emergency surfacing capability. The collision occurred nine miles south of Oahu. No one aboard the Greeneville was injured.
Sixteen civilians were aboard the Greeneville at the time of the collision as part of the Navy's Distinguished Visitor Embarkation program. Three were at the controls. The Navy said the three civilians who participated in the emergency surfacing maneuver were properly supervised and were assisted at all times by Greeneville crew members and had zero impact on the collision.
But NTSB investigators concluded their presence and the manner in which they were accommodated by the crew, especially Waddle, had an adverse impact on the safety of operations.
The crew's performance suffered because they either adopted an informal attitude toward their duties or concentrated on accommodating the visitors instead of their work, the report said.
"It was the commander's responsibility to prevent that from happening," Yoshishige said. "Commanders are expected to and routinely operate ships in more stressful and complex situations."
Yoshishige said the Navy continues to host civilians aboard its vessels.
The NTSB concluded that the Navy has adequately overhauled its training and oversight procedures since the accident.