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Monday, February 19, 2001

Submarine commander refuses to talk to NTSB about the collision

Waddle wants to wait until the
Navy inquiry is complete

Bullet Ehime Maru captain may be in inquiry
Bullet Navy should not sack commander

By Jaymes K. Song
Associated Press

Bullet Sub captain won't talk
Bullet Ehime Maru captain
Bullet Sub repair, probe stared
Bullet Civilians, families meet
Bullet Uwajima mayor appeals

HONOLULU (AP) - 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.

Ehime Maru captain
may take part in Navy
court of inquiry


TOKYO -- Japan said today it wants to send the captain of a Japanese trawler sunk by a U.S. submarine to take part in a U.S. Navy court of inquiry.

The accident left nine missing, including four 17-year-old fisheries students, presumed dead.

Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori told Senior Vice Foreign Minister Seishiro Eto to negotiate with Washington so that Hisao Onishi, captain of the Ehime Maru training trawler, would be allowed to attend the court of inquiry, the Navy's highest form of administrative investigation.

Earlier today, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda said Tokyo was considering a U.S. request to send naval personnel to take part in the inquiry.

The Navy said last week that nothing so far has indicated that the presence of civilians contributed to the accident.

The USS Greeneville's captain, Cmdr. Scott Waddle, executive officer, Lieutenant Commander Gerald Pfeifer, and officer of the deck, Lieutenant Michael J. Coen, will face the court of inquiry at Pearl Harbor on Thursday.

The court's recommendations could range from a letter of reprimand to a trial by court-martial.

A rare proceeding

A Court of Inquiry is an administrative fact-finding body based on military tradition from the 1786 Articles of War. Past major court proceedings:

Bullet 1898: Sinking of the USS Maine in Havana harbor.

Bullet 1941: Surprise attack on Pearl Harbor.

Bullet 1992: USS Saratoga mistakenly firing two missiles into a nearby Turkish destroyer during a Mediterranean Sea exercise.

Navy should not ‘sacrifice’
commander, says relative

By Gregg K. Kakesako

A relative of the skipper of the nuclear attack submarine that rammed and sank a Japanese fishing vessel is concerned that "pressure from the Japanese government will interfere with the Navy's final decision."

Kent Huntington, a firefighter in Washington state, told the Star-Bulletin that he has spoken several times by phone to Cmdr. Scott Waddle, skipper of the USS Greeneville, in Honolulu.

"I have never asked him about the incident," said Huntington, whose younger sister married Waddle about a decade ago.

"Understandably he's distraught, and he and his wife now face a major change in their lives.

"He's a very intelligent man. He has the respect of his men and has many admirers. His education is awesome, and his devotion to the service and to his country is without question. He follows Navy procedure."

On Feb. 9, when demonstrating an emergency surfacing maneuver for 16 civilians, the Greenville hit the Ehime Maru 10 miles south of Diamond Head. The Japanese vessel sank in 10 minutes. Twenty-six of its crewmen were rescued; nine are still missing.

Waddle has been relieved as the sub's commander pending the outcome of the investigation.

Huntington added: "I'm not saying what my brother-in-law did is right. He is my brother-in-law, but now he has two countries scrutinizing this. Politics is now pushing the decision makers to give the governments what they want -- whether that will be a court-martial is anyone's guess, but it seems to be heading that way.

"The U.S. Navy should not be pushed by politics to sacrifice a commander and his crew just to keep Japan happy."

A formal court of inquiry composed of three Navy admirals will be held at Pearl Harbor starting Thursday to determine what will happen to Waddle and two other Greeneville officers.

Huntington said a defense fund should be started to support the crew of the Greeneville just like one was established to help the families of the Ehime Maru.

Huntington said that little has been said about the Japanese vessel; the qualifications of its captain, Hisao Onishi; and if he knew that his vessel was in an area marked on navigational charts as being used by submarines.

"There also were reports that the Japanese fishing vessel may have had engine problems," said Huntington.

"I hope the people in the U.S. Navy won't be pressured by a foreign government. I hope he gets exonerated."

Huntington said Waddle met his sister about 10 years ago when he was in training at Bremerton. He said he was present when Waddle assumed command of the Greeneville in March 1999. "That was the first time I was ever on a submarine," Huntington said. "I took a tour but it never left the docks."

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