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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, February 13, 2005

Sub commander relieved of duty

By William H. McMichael
Navy Times

The commanding officer whose submarine ran into an uncharted underwater mountain south of Guam has been formally relieved of his command and issued a career-damaging letter of reprimand at an administrative hearing in Yokosuka, Japan.

Cmdr. Kevin Mooney learned his fate yesterday at a nonjudicial "admiral's mast" hearing before 7th Fleet commander Vice Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert, according to Cmdr. Ike Skelton, a fleet spokesman.

Skelton said Greenert concluded that "several critical navigational and voyage planning procedures were not being implemented aboard San Francisco. By not ensuring these standard procedures were followed, Mooney hazarded his vessel."

The crash Jan. 8 killed one sailor and injured 23.

The Navy has not released details of its investigation into the incident, which took place as the San Francisco was making a submerged voyage from Guam to Brisbane, Australia.

Just after midnight Jan. 8, local time, the 362-foot sub and its 137-man crew were moving to the east at flank speed — nearly 35 miles per hour — when the sub struck what experts believe was an uncharted mountain topped by a large coral reef about 350 miles southeast of Guam.

Rear Adm. Paul Sullivan, commander of the Pacific Fleet Submarine Force, described the area the sub had been moving through as a submerged moving haven, an underwater passageway thought to be clear of obstacles.

The collision heavily damaged the attack submarine's bow, tearing away much of the black outer hull and leaving a gnarled mass of crushed metal. Three main ballast tanks and the sonar dome were partially flooded.

The Navy announced that while no decision has been made about whether to repair or decommission the 23-year-old Los Angeles-class submarine, the damage is so extensive that officials have decided to temporarily repair it and sail the sub from Guam to a nuclear-capable shipyard in the United States, where a more detailed assessment can be made.

The temporary repairs will take about three months and will allow the sub, now resting in a Guam drydock, to cross the ocean, said Lt. Cmdr. Jeff Davis, spokesman for the Pacific Fleet Submarine Force in Hawaii. The trip will likely take place this summer, he said.

The crew, meanwhile, will remain in limbo on Guam until officials decide the submarine's fate, Davis said.