Saturday, February 10, 2001
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Posted on: Saturday, February 10, 2001

Investigation into collision promised

9 missing after sub hits Japanese ship
Damaged ship sank within 10 minutes
Accident while surfacing a real fear
Investigation into collision promised
Graphic of how the collision happened
See video of the Coast Guard rescue effort in large (6.8 Mb), small (1.1 Mb) or streaming format. Video courtesy KHON-TV.

By Mike Gordon
Advertiser Staff Writer

The Navy promised a thorough investigation into the collision between the Ehime Maru and the submarine USS Greeneville, but the rarity and complexity of the incident left commanders at Pacific Fleet headquarters last night with more questions than answers.

Senior Navy leaders in Washington and Hawaii were aware of the incident, said Lt. Cmdr. Conrad Chun, fleet spokesman. Adm. Dennis Blair, U.S. commander of Pacific forces, and Rear Adm. Albert Konetzni, commander of the Pacific Fleet submarine force, were out of town but had been notified, Chun said.

Chun said he did not know what kinds of experts would be called to participate in the investigation, or whether they would come from the Mainland. It was not clear last night if the Coast Guard or the National Transportation Safety Board would join the investigation.

"It involved a military vessel, a civilian vessel and another country," Chun said. "It is complicated."

Few such incidents have occurred in recent years. In 1998, a U.S. Marine jet on a training mission over Italy’s Dolomite mountains struck and severed the cable of a ski resort gondola, causing the cable car to fall 300 feet to the ground and killing all 20 people inside.

In the wake of that accident, all training flights were suspended pending a military investigation, a commanding officer eventually was relieved of his post, and disciplinary action was recommended against supervisory officers. The Marine Corps initially charged four crew members with manslaughter, dereliction of duty and related offenses, but preliminary hearings cleared two of the members.

Nearly a year after the incident, in March 1999, the Marine Corps dropped charges against the pilot, and two weeks later a military jury cleared the navigator of any offense in connection with the accident.

The incident caused an uproar in Europe and strained relations between Italy and the United States. Italian officials also conducted their own investigation. A year after the incident, the United States and Italy agreed to new measures to tighten restrictions for U.S. military training flights in Italy.

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