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By Ryota Dei

HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, May 9) – A Navy report blames the submarine USS San Francisco's leaders and watch teams for allegedly failing to develop and execute a safe voyage plan.

Had the submarine's crew ''complied with requisite procedures and exercised prudent navigation practices,'' the grounding could have been avoided, the 124-page report said. ''Even if not wholly avoided, however, the grounding would not have been as severe and loss of life may be been prevented.''

The Jan. 8 accident claimed the life of Petty Officer 2nd Class Joseph A. Ashley, 24. He suffered severe head injuries and died the next day.

The accident occurred about 360 miles southeast of Guam.

The submarine hit an undersea mountain while submerged at 525 feet, according to The Associated Press.

"Earlier evacuation or arrival of medical officers would not have changed the outcome for (Petty Officer) Ashley," the report says of two additional medical personnel flown aboard by helicopter and two attempts to medically evacuate him by helicopter.

The investigation also found that the San Francisco crew had another navigation chart that clearly showed the existence of "navigation hazard in the vicinity of the grounding," the report says.

"San Francisco's navigation team failed to review those charts adequately and transfer pertinent data to the chart being used for navigation, as relevant directives and the ship's own procedure required," the report says.

The Navy announced Saturday that it would cost about $11 million to repair the damaged submarine and an additional estimated $7.5 million for predocking and docking work done by the Guam Shipyard.

As a result of the accident, the U.S. 7th Fleet Commander Vice Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert relieved Cmdr. Kevin Mooney of his command of USS San Francisco on Feb. 12. Mooney also received a letter of reprimand, a news release from the Navy said.

Greenert, however, also praised Mooney's prior accomplishments of leading the USS San Francisco crewmembers and performance following the impact.

"Although the grounding incident compelled me to punish (him) and remove him from command, in my opinion it does not negate 19 years of exemplary service," Greenert said in the press release. "Prior to the grounding incident, USS San Francisco demonstrated a trend of continuing improvement and compiled an impressive record of achievement under (Mooney's) leadership.

"Moreover, the crew's post-grounding response under his direct leadership was commendable and enabled (the sub's) recovery and safe return to port."

Six crewmembers of executive officers and a navigation team were punished by Capt. Bradley Gehrke, commander of Submarine Squadron 15 on Guam, to which San Francisco was assigned. For privacy reasons, none of the crewmembers were identified. However, the press release says those include enlisted, senior enlisted and officers.

The punishments included reduction in rate and punitive letters of reprimand.

May 9, 2005

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