U.S. releases data from sub showing route before collision

Guest program to be rethought after Hawaii tragedy


The National Transportation Safety Board on Friday released a record of the U.S. submarine Greeneville’s movements before it hit the Japanese fisheries training ship Ehime Maru off Hawaii on Feb. 9, based on data provided by the U.S. Navy.

The preliminary data file contains parameters extracted from a data tape that holds records from the sub’s sonar data logger and shows that the 6,080-ton sub ascended to an initial periscope depth of 20 meters from the surface at 1:38 p.m., about five minutes before it collided with the 499-ton Ehime Maru, according to the NTSB.

The Greeneville then ascended about 1 meter higher one minute later for a total time at periscope depth of about 90 seconds.

At 1:40 p.m., the Greeneville commenced its descent and one minute later began a heading change to port, turning the submarine to a north-northeast heading, and descended to a maximum depth of 123.5 meters at 1:42 p.m.

About 30 seconds later, the sub began a rapid ascent to the surface and collided with the Ehime Maru, on a south-southeast heading, 50 seconds later, the NTSB said.

Meanwhile, the navy’s appointing order for the Court of Inquiry into the collision, scheduled to open Monday, suggested that the service’s highest administrative investigative organ will examine the implementation of a program inviting civilian guests aboard navy submarines.

The order sent to Vice Adm. John Nathman, who will head the court, by Adm. Thomas Fargo, commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, said the court will examine the fleet’s “implementation of the Distinguished Visitor Embarkation Program.”

The sub’s rapid surfacing maneuver was the last major event scheduled for civilian guests prior to the sub’s return to port at Pearl Harbor, Oahu Island. It is widely suspected that the civilian presence aboard the sub was a major factor in the collision.

“Provide your candid assessment and conclusions regarding the execution of this program . . . as well as any recommendations the court may have for improving the policies and practices related to the DVE program,” it said.

The order also said the court will inquire into “all of the facts and circumstances connected with the collision . . . the damages resulting therefrom, and any fault, neglect or responsibility for the incident.” The court will look into the liabilities of the sub’s captain, Cmdr. Scott Waddle, and two other Greeneville crew members.

Fargo also said Nathman is “directed to examine the propriety of the assigned location” for the Greeneville’s operations on the day of the accident. The sub was operating about 18 km off the coast of Oahu Island.

The commander directed the court president to complete a final report as quickly as possible but said, “The court’s emphasis must remain on thoroughness rather than speed.

“I want you to take whatever time is required to address all relevant issues completely,” he said.

He also said Rear Adm. Isamu Ozawa of Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force will participate as an adviser and nonvoting member of the court of inquiry.

Nine people — four teenage students, two teachers and three crew members — aboard the Ehime Maru, operated by Uwajima Fisheries

High School in Ehime Prefecture, are missing and presumed dead in the accident.