NUCLEAR SUB SAID TO HIT ‘MOUND’ AT 40 MPH

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By Theresa Merto and David V. Crisostomo

HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Jan. 11) - As the military continues to investigate the USS San Francisco collision, Navy officials here are planning a memorial service tomorrow for the sailor who died as a result of injuries in the incident.

It is too soon to determine whether the USS San Francisco can be repaired on Guam, as Navy officials continue assessing the damage it sustained when it ran aground, striking a topographical feature underwater.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Joseph Allen Ashley of Akron, Ohio, died as a result of injuries sustained. Dozens more were injured when the incident occurred Saturday while the submarine was traveling about 350 miles south of Guam.

Lt. Cmdr. Jeff Davis, spokesman for the U.S. Navy Pacific Submarine Force, said yesterday that the Navy is planning a memorial service for Ashley, who was a machinist mate. Davis said the memorial is to be held tomorrow, but details of the memorial were not available yesterday.

Ashley died Sunday afternoon after he suffered head trauma while he was working in one of the ship's engineering spaces. Nearly two dozen other sailors received injuries ranging from broken bones to lacerations, several of whom were brought to Guam Memorial Hospital for "specialized testing" but were not admitted to GMH, Davis said.

Davis said since the damage assessment has just begun, no decision has been made about where the repairs will take place.

The USS San Francisco, one of three nuclear-powered submarines based on Guam, was on its way to Brisbane, Australia, for a routine port visit when the submarine ran aground. It made its way back to Guam and was moored at Sierra Pier on Monday afternoon.

NBC News reported yesterday, citing unnamed Navy officials, that the submarine was traveling at 40 mph at a depth of 525 feet when it hit an "undersea mound."

The collision slowed the 7,000-ton San Francisco to about 5 mph instantly, the report stated. The submarine then made an "emergency blow," or rapid ascent, to the surface.

The nose of the submarine, which contains the submarine's sensitive sonar system, was destroyed, the report added. Had the inner hull been breached, the pressure at 525 feet below sea level would have crushed the submarine, the report said.

In the NBC News report, unnamed Navy officials, citing the submarine commander, said the San Francisco hit an "uncharted" mound that would have been invisible to the submarine's crew if they were running silently -- without using underwater sonar.

Some officials say, however, that the usual underwater sea lanes used by U.S. submarines have been fully charted and it's not clear why the San Francisco would have been operating in waters that were not adequately charted, according to the NBC News report.

Navy officials on Guam yesterday would not comment on the NBC News report, but stressed that the incident would be investigated thoroughly.

January 12, 2005

Pacific Daily News: www.guampdn.com

 

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