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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Victim identified as sailor at Pearl

By William Cole
Advertiser Military Writer

The man could be seen about 150 feet from shore, signaling for help and firing flares from a life raft.

But despite the efforts of rescue swimmers and personnel in boats and three aircraft, a combination of strong waves and a setting sun were factors in the inability to save the man off Marine Corps Base Hawaii at Kāne'ohe Bay, officials said yesterday.

The Navy yesterday identified the victim as Robert Lawrence Mudd, a crew member of the USS Olympia, a fast-attack submarine based at Pearl Harbor.

Mudd, 29, of Fort Mitchell, Ky., was an electricians mate 1st class. He joined the Navy in 1998 and had been assigned to the Olympia since May 30, 2007.

According to a military police log, Mudd at one point was as close as about 150 feet from shore Friday afternoon in waters off Pyramid Rock Beach. He was waving his arms, officials said.

Swimmers, boats, Fire Department and Coast Guard helicopters and an airplane tried to locate and aid Mudd, who was in a yellow life raft, but were unable to reach him, officials said.

"The sun went down reportedly at 6:37 Friday night," said Maj. Alan Crouch, a Marine Corps Base Hawaii spokesman. "First responders had eyes on Petty Officer Mudd at approximately 6:30. By 6:35, we had two guys from aircraft rescue and firefighting trying to swim out to him."

Mudd previously served at the Trident Training Facility in Kings Bay, Ga., and aboard the submarine USS Nebraska.

"Our sincerest condolences and prayers go out to the family and friends of Petty Officer Mudd," the U.S. Pacific Fleet submarine force said.

A memorial service with the Olympia crew is being planned for later this week at the Submarine Memorial Chapel on Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam.

Mudd's body was recovered about 1:40 p.m. Saturday from the water about 60 feet from the shore of Pyramid Rock Beach at the Marine Corps base, the Navy said.

According to officials, the rescue effort began about 6:20 p.m. Friday when the Marine Corps air operations tower notified aircraft rescue and firefighting members that flares had been spotted off the north end of the runway.

Military police also were notified. At about 6:30 p.m., aircraft rescue swimmers tried to swim to Mudd, who was in distress, but were unable to reach him given the rough seas, Marine Corps officials said.

At 6:35 p.m., the base's waterfront operations unit dispatched a 25-foot boat, according to the Marines. Federal firefighters also were notified by the military police desk sergeant and also dispatched personnel to assist.

Rescue personnel in the 25-foot boat recovered a life vest, but were unable to reach Mudd because of the "extreme hazards," the Marines said.

Due to high surf conditions, there was a small-craft warning and the beach was closed under a "red flag" warning. As a result, lifeguards had not manned that beach all day, officials said.

The severe conditions also prompted the cancellation of a surf contest scheduled for Saturday and Sunday.

The Marine Corps' waterfront operations sent out a larger boat, but it did not make visual contact with Mudd. He was last seen about 7 p.m. Friday in the vicinity of Pyramid Rock Beach.

Coast Guard District 14 crews aboard an HH-65 Dolphin rescue helicopter and HC-130 Hercules airplane from Air Station Barbers Point were launched to aid in the search at 7 p.m.

Military police recovered a life raft from Pyramid Rock Beach about 7:20 p.m. Also recovered were a flare gun and a small waterproof box with a first aid kit.

The Honolulu Fire Department said it received a call from federal firefighters at 7:36 p.m. and that its first unit arrived at 7:46 p.m. By then it was dark.

The air crews searched throughout Friday night. The Fire Department also began a helicopter search, officials said.

Military police foot patrols with K-9 support continued hourly at Pyramid Rock, Hale Koa and North Beaches at the Marine Corps base through the night.

Coast Guard helicopter crews also searched throughout the night and were rejoined by the other agencies at sunrise.

Lifeguards began searching the water at Pyramid Rock Beach about 7 a.m. Saturday. They found Mudd's body about 1:40 p.m. that day.

No wreckage of a boat was found, the Navy said. The Navy said Mudd's death is being investigated.