Former USS Greeneville commander blamed for collision with fishing boat
The former commander of the nuclear-powered submarine USS Greeneville was deemed largely responsible for ramming a Japanese high school fishing boat near Hawaii in 2001 and causing the death of nine people aboard, according to a federal investigation.
The investigation concluded that Cmdr. Scott Waddle’s hurried conduct of an emergency surfacing drill while civilian dignitaries were aboard caused the submarine to hit and sink the Ehime Maru, a ship used to train teenagers from Uwajima Fisheries High School in Ehime prefecture.
Results of the National Transportation Safety Board investigation of the Feb. 6, 2001, collision were released Wednesday.
The NTSB conducted the probe at the request of victims’ families upset with the Pentagon’s handling of the incident, according to previous Stars and Stripes reports.
Tatsuyoshi Mizuguchi, father of Takeshi Mizuguchi, 17, one of the nine who died in the collision, said Thursday night that the report meant little.
“Although I did not have a chance yet to read the report thoroughly, it seems that the content is not much different from earlier findings,” he said.
“To tell the truth, the report does not mean anything,” he said. “Whatever the outcome may be, it will not bring my son back.”
According to the NTSB, visitors aboard the submarine were behind schedule on the tour so Waddle rushed through maneuvers and “didn’t allow enough time to search the area for other vessels.”
“The commanding officer continued to rush, pushing his crew and truncating recommended steps for safe operation,” the report stated.
The crew’s failure to communicate and to manage the 16 visitors also was to blame, the NTSB found.
The victims’ family members accepted a $16.5 million settlement in 2002.
A Navy court of inquiry decided not to court-martial Waddle and allowed him to retire at full rank and pension.
Phil Cummings, from the U.S. Consulate General at Osaka-Kobe, delivered a copy of the NTSB report to Uwajima city Mayor Hirohisa Ishibashi on Thursday, a city official said.
Cummings reportedly told Ishibashi he wanted the report to be available to Uwajima residents. He also wanted to apologize on behalf of the U.S. government, an official said.
The mayor expressed relief that measures are in place to prevent the recurrence of such an incident, said Yoshifumi Kihara, Ishibashi’s chief secretary.
“Our hope is that the Ehime Maru tragedy will not be repeated,” Ishibashi said.
The Navy since has placed restrictions on visitors on submarines. The NTSB investigation concluded the Navy has recognized the “detrimental operating conditions” aboard the Greeneville and has taken “additional measures to address the safety of operations” on submarines.
“No further action is warranted,” the NTSB report concluded.
Nobuyoshi Yano, who was vice governor of Ehime prefecture when the sinking occurred, said that “although it may be a mere formality, the report will still serve as closure.”
“But,” he added, “it will not make the ship rise to the surface or the lost lives alive again.”