HONOLULU (AP)— The submerged USS Greeneville raced past the slow-moving Japanese fishing vessel Ehime Maru before a fateful course reversal that ended in their deadly collision, according to information released Friday.
It was the first disclosure of the submarine's movements in the critical 10 minutes leading up to the Feb. 9 collision that sank the Ehime Maru. Nine of the 35 on board the Japanese training ship are missing and presumed dead.
The National Transportation Safety Board, which is conducting an investigation of the accident nine miles off Honolulu, released the information, which shows the surface and subsurface movements of the two vessels.
The Navy is to open hearings into the accident Monday at Pearl Harbor, focusing on the actions of the Greeneville's officers.
Navy lawyers were reviewing a request Friday from attorneys for submarine Cmdr. Scott Waddle seeking "testimonial immunity" for Waddle during the hearings.
Testimonial immunity would prevent military lawyers from prosecuting Waddle based upon anything he says during the investigative hearing, according to military legal expert Eugene Fidell, president of the National Institute of Military Justice in Washington, D.C. However, Waddle still could face prosecution based upon the testimony of others.
Lawyers for Adm. Thomas Fargo, who convened the hearings, were reviewing the request. Waddle's attorneys did not return messages from The Associated Press.
The Navy had no comment on the information released by the NTSB, said Jon Yoshishige, a spokesman for the Pacific Fleet. He said the Navy is continuing to cooperate fully with the NTSB's investigation.
The information released by the NTSB is based on a preliminary tape provided by the Navy of the Greeneville's sonar and navigation data.
It showed the 190-foot fisheries training vessel was traveling in a south-southeast direction at 11 knots, nearly parallel to the southbound course of the submerged 360-foot Greeneville.
The much-faster submarine passed the Ehime Maru, but reversed course to the north to prepare for an emergency surfacing drill. The drill was a demonstration for 16 civilian guests aboard, the Navy said.
When the vessels were about two miles apart, the Greeneville made a series of zigzag turns, continuing in a north-northwest direction before ascending to an initial periscope depth five minutes before the impact.
After 1 1/2 minutes at periscope depth, the Greeneville descended, going the same direction as the Ehime Maru. It reached 405 feet in two minutes and turned northward.
The Greeneville then shot to the surface in 50 seconds, coming up under the Ehime Maru, the NTSB data show.
The submarine ripped the bottom out of the Ehime Maru, which sank within minutes.
On the Net: NTSB: www.ntsb.gov/Pressrel/2001/010302.htm