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Inquiry into USS Greeneville Incident Begins

On Monday, the US Navy began an official inquiry into the collision on February 9 of the USS Greeneville, a nuclear submarine, with a 190-foot Japanese fishing trawler, the Ehime Maru, off the coast of Japan. The accident led to the death of nine Japanese crew members, including four high school students. Over the last three weeks, several issues have emerged that are sure to be taken up at the inquiry. First, eighteen civilians -- reportedly oil company executives and their wives -- were present in the control room of the Greeneville at the time of the surfacing. The surfacing was part of an emergency drill. It has been admitted that some supervised civilians were at the controls during the drill. Thus far, the Navy has maintained that these civilians did not contribute to the accident. Second, a crewman, who manned the sonar told federal investigators "he stopped manually plotting the position of the Ehime Maru less than an hour before the collision because the control room was too crowded" (AP story on Yahoo!News). Third, the eighteen civilians are twice the usual civilian complement of nine for such public relations voyages. The inquiry board, made up of three Navy admirals and one Japanese maritime official (who will not be able to vote on the board's final recommendation), will ultimately advise the Navy as to whether the commanding officers of the ship and/or fleet should face disciplinary action, ranging from a reprimand to a court-martial. Last week, President Bush issued an official apology to the Japanese for the incident. Meanwhile, the Mayor of the village of Uwajima, from which the fishing vessel originated, has appealed to the United States to continue searching for the bodies of the nine drowned crew members, believing there is still a chance for rescue and, even if there is not, insisting that the bodies need to be returned on religious and cultural grounds.
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2003-04-03 12:36:03
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2003-04-03 12:36:03
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