Navy beginsThe Navy has begun compensation talks with the 35 crew members and passengers of the Japanese training ship Ehime Maru.
Victims' kin may be stymied
in their call for a
By Gregg K. Kakesako
A Navy official said the acting Secretary of the Navy Robert Pirie is empowered to settle claims up to $1 million. Anything above that amount has to be coordinated with other federal agencies.
The representatives of the Naval Legal Services Office in Yokosuka and the Naval Forces in Japan went to Ehime prefecture to meet with the families of the students and the two teachers from the Uwajima Fisheries High School and 10 crew members of the Japanese vessel.
The Ehime Maru was on the final leg of an educational voyage on Feb. 9 when it was rammed and sunk by the nuclear submarine USS Greeneville. The sub surfaced beneath the Ehime Maru nine miles off Waikiki while conducting a rapid-ascent drill for 16 civilian guests.
On Friday, Adm. Thomas Fargo, Pacific Fleet commander, got a 2,000-page report from the panel of three U.S. senior admirals he charged with investigating the accident.
An initial Navy inquiry on the accident determined that a series of errors by Greeneville skipper Cmdr. Scott Waddle and his crew, including failing to scan the surface by periscope before executing an emergency surfacing drill, caused the collision.
The panel also investigated the actions of the submarine's executive officer, Lt. Cmdr. Gerald Pfeifer; and the officer of the deck, Lt. j.g. Michael Coen.
Pentagon officials told the New York Times that the three admirals on the panel unanimously recommended that Waddle not be tried by court martial. Instead he may be subjected to a punitive letter or reprimand that would end his career and could reduce his retirement benefits, or an administrative penalty such as an admiral's mast. There the maximum penalty would be 30 days confined to quarters, 60 days restriction and forfeiture of one month's pay.
But Navy officials here advised against such speculation, saying Fargo just got the report and has made no decision.
A court-martial, which could include such charges as negligent homicide and dereliction of duty, could result in lengthy prison sentences and dismissal from the Navy for Waddle and other Greeneville crewmen.
Waddle already has told the Navy that he would accept nonjudicial punishment and intends to retire from the Navy as soon as the disciplinary issues have been resolved.
His civilian attorney, Charles Gittins, said Waddle does not deserve to be court-martialed.
"We trust that the court of inquiry's findings reflect Scott's demonstrated professionalism over a 20-year career and the nature of this accident, which was the result of a series of individually small, honest mistakes by good men trying to do their duty," Gittins said.
The collision strained relations between Japan and the United States, and prompted criticism of a Navy public relations program that allows civilians to ride on military planes, ships and vehicles.
The Navy has said parts of report - which contains facts, opinions, recommendations, evidentiary enclosures and a complete transcript of the inquiry - may be released after Fargo's decision.
However, Jay Fidell, a military lawyer, said "it is remarkable and objectionable they didn't release what they could once they received the report."
Fidell, who has participated in military investigations, predicted that Fargo would move quickly since that "is the type of person he is and because the silence is deafening."
The families in Japan have demanded a court-martial so that the cause of the accident can be clarified.
"The U.S. Navy acknowledged its responsibility for the accident at the court of inquiry and apologized. It should definitely convene a court-martial and further clarify the cause of the accident and who was responsible for it. This process can also prevent accidents in the future," Takahiro Hosokawa said.
Hosokawa, who represents a group formed by families of the rescued students, is the father of survivor Hirotaka Hosokawa, 17. "This is what we, the victims, and most Japanese want," he said.
A review of the events leading up to the USS Greeneville's collision with the Ehime Maru on Feb. 9:
Timeline of events that led to collision
>> 7:59 a.m.: Greeneville leaves Pearl Harbor sub base with 15 civilians as guest for a day cruise.
>> 12:15 p.m.: Trawler Ehime Maru leaves Honolulu Harbor, headed south of Diamond Head.
>> 12:32 p.m.: Greeneville obtains first sonar contact of vessel now believed to be the Ehime Maru and designates it Sierra 13.
>> 12:50 p.m.: Japanese vessel picks up speed and continues on course south of Diamond Head.
>> 1:16 p.m.: Running 43 minutes behind schedule, Greeneville performs a maneuver called "angles and dangles," in which it makes vertical turns.
>> 1:25 p.m.: Greeneville performs horizontal high-speed turns.
>> 1 :31 p.m.: Fire control technician Patrick Seacrest obtains a range for Sierra 13 of 14,000 yards from the Greeneville.
>> 1:32-1:38 p.m.: Greeneville performs a maneuver that is supposed to provide more accurate sonar readings in preparation for going to periscope depth.
>> 1:37:33 p.m.: Seacrest detects Sierra 13 at a range of 16,000 yards.
>> 1:37:48 p.m.: Sierra 13's range drops to 4,000 yards. Seacrest does not report this to officers.
>> 1:38:30 p.m.: Greeneville rises to periscope depth. Cmdr. Scott Waddle and Lt. j.g. Michael Coen, officer of the deck, report no close contacts.
>> 1:40 p.m.: Greeneville begins descent.
>> 1:42 p.m.: Greeneville reaches maximum depth of about 400 feet.
>> 1:42:30 p.m.: Greeneville begins rapid ascent (emergency main ballast blow).
>> 1:43:20 p.m.: Greeneville strikes Ehime Maru.