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Navy officials said a crewman in the No. 2 gun turret of the battleship USS Iowa warned, "Uh oh. We've got a problem here" just before explosions killed him and 46 other men, The Washington Post reported Tuesday.

At the Pentagon, Navy spokesman Cmdr. Craig Quigley declined to confirm or deny the report and said he had no idea who the unidentified Navy officials were who were cited in the story.It was the second time in three days that details surrounding the explosion that killed 47 crewmen aboard the Iowa April 16 were passed to the news media and then met with a "no comment" from the Navy.

Earlier, the Virginian-Pilot and the Ledger-Star newspaper of Norfolk, Va., quoted a survivor as saying that one of the guns in turret No. 1 misfired before the explosion in gun turret No. 2. The Navy refused comment.

The Washington Post said Navy officials told it that a crewman's terse warning came over a sound-activated phone connected to several circuits throughout the six-level No. 2 turret.

"Uh, oh," the sailor said. "We've got a problem here."

All circuits within the turret went dead within seconds before the crew member could explain what went wrong.

Navy officials close to an investigation of the April 16 incident told the Post they are optimistic that investigators will be able to determine the cause of the explosion, even though all witnesses were killed and much of the turret interior was heavily damaged.

The board of inquiry, headed by Rear Adm. Richard Milligan, commander of Crusier Destroyer Group Two, already has begun writing its preliminary report.