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CRIMINAL PROBE LAUNCHED INTO USS IOWA TRAGEDY
SHIPMATE IS BENEFICIARY OF BLAST VICTIM'S POLICY

Authorities have launched a criminal investigation into a tip that two crew members of the USS Iowa had bought life insurance policies before the explosion that killed 47 sailors, a newspaper reported Friday.

The Virginian-Pilot and The Ledger-Star of Norfolk said federal authorities are looking into reports that the crewmen, one of whom died in the blast, took out life insurance policies more than a year ago naming each other as beneficiaries. Both policies were for $50,000, with a double-indemnity clause in case of accidental death, the sister of a crewman killed in the incident said.She identified the beneficiary as one of the 11 men who survived the gun turret blast. The woman, who spoke to the newspaper on condition of anonymity and asked that her brother's name be withheld as well, said this week that she raised the insurance question with the Navy.

Agents from the Naval Investigative Service and the FBI have questioned crewmen this week and have begun analyzing evidence recovered from the turret, the newspaper said.

Officials contacted by the paper about a possible criminial probe acknowledged that the naval service and FBI were questioning the beneficiary but would not elaborate.

Navy Lt. Bruce Cole, contacted at the Pentagon by The Associated Press Friday, said he had no details on what the NIS is looking into and does not know if sabotage is a target of the investigation.

The newspaper said Navy investigators also have learned that the gun turret was significantly undermanned and that a number of those working in the turret lacked required training.