Admiral OKs USS Greeneville Inquiry
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 20, 2001 The U.S. Pacific Fleet commander has ordered that a Court of Inquiry be convened next week to investigate the circumstances leading to the Feb. 9 collision between a Navy nuclear submarine and a Japanese trawler off Honolulu.
At a Feb. 17 press conference in Pearl Harbor, Admiral Thomas B. Fargo noted that he had completed his preliminary review of the collision between the USS Greeneville and the fishing vessel Ehime Maru. The submarine was conducting an emergency surfacing exercise when it struck the Ehime Maru about nine miles out from Diamond Head, DoD officials said.
"The Court of Inquiry is the Navy's highest form of administrative investigation and a formal hearing," Fargo said at Pearl Harbor. "I've elected this course of action after reviewing the facts, opinions and recommendations expressed in the preliminary inquiry, because a Court of Inquiry provides the necessary legal safeguards for the affected parties, complete subpoena power and a forum for public disclosure."
Fargo said the court would convene Feb. 26 at Pearl Harbor. It will not conflict with the ongoing National Transportation and Safety Board investigation, he said.
"The court is directed to inquire into all facets of the collision," Fargo said. "They'll make recommended administrative or disciplinary action, if appropriate, as well as to make any other recommendations as to the circumstances surrounding the incident."
Fargo said he didn't know how long the court would meet.
Three Navy flag officers will constitute the Court of Inquiry, Fargo said. They are:
- Vice Adm. John B. Nathman, the commander of Naval Air Forces in the Pacific Fleet, who will lead the inquiry.
- Rear Adm. Paul F. Sullivan, the director of plans and policy at the U.S. Strategic Command.
- Rear Adm. David M. Stone, the commander of Cruiser/Destroyer Group Five.
Fargo noted that the Greeneville's commanding officer, Cmdr. Scott Waddle; the executive officer, Lt. Cmdr. Gerald K. Pfeifer; and officer of the deck Lt. j.g. Michael J. Coen, would be questioned during the court. All of the officers "will be afforded their due process rights, including their right to be represented by counsel" at the inquiry, Fargo said.
The Japanese will be offered the opportunity to send a Maritime Self-Defense Force flag officer to attend the court as an advisor, he said.
The collision with the Greeneville caused the Ehime Maru to sink within minutes, officials noted. Nine members of its 35-member crew are still missing.
"The seriousness in which I view this tragic incident is reflected in the level of the investigation and the seniority of the court members," Fargo said. "They will provide a full and open accounting to both the American and the Japanese people."