WASHINGTON — The commander of the U.S. submarine that rammed into a Japanese trawler killing nine people feels deep remorse over what happened and will never get over the tragedy, his wife said Friday.
USS Greeneville Cmdr. Scott Waddle, one of three officers facing a U.S. Navy court of inquiry into the Feb. 9 collision, met with Japanese family members privately Thursday to offer his condolences.
Jill Waddle, the commander's wife, said in an interview with ABC's "Good Morning America" program that her husband told the families he was very sorry for the accident off Hawaii.
"His heart is breaking. He feels terrible, great remorse for what has happened. Also he feels it is something he will never get over," she said.
The relatives told reporters at a news conference after their meeting that they considered Waddle's apologies sincere. One woman noted that the 41-year-old sub commander "appeared in the room and bowed, and tears fell to the floor."
Waddle's wife said the inquiry at Pearl Harbor navy base brought back the tragedy for her husband, who had a "really hard time composing himself" and had to take a break from proceedings Thursday.
While confusion and helplessness filled the minutes after the fast-rising submarine ripped through the boat, Waddle and his crew acted "remarkably professional," the Navy's chief investigator into the crash, Rear Adm. Charles Griffiths Jr., testified Thursday.
When asked by Waddle's attorney whether the commander was criminally negligent in the operation of his submarine, Griffiths replied: "In my opinion, he was not criminally negligent."
Waddle's father, retired Air Force. Col. Dan Waddle, called his son a professional military man who knew the responsibilities when he took command of the Greeneville in 1999. "He's taking responsibility for what happened," said Col. Waddle. "He's the commanding officer and the buck stops there."
Dan Waddle said when the inquiry was over his son wanted to travel to Japan to make personal apologies again to each family member.
He said his son had phoned him right after the accident when he reached port. "He said 'Dad, I'm devastated; it's as though my heart was ripped out of my body when I looked through that periscope and saw what had happened.' "
He said his son had done everything he was supposed to do while commanding the submarine, but said some procedures could possibly have taken longer.
"This is a terrible accident and yes, it could have been prevented had some of the things been done, possibly for a bit longer, but he did everything right by the book " said Col. Waddle.
Waddle's wife said her husband did not believe the presence of civilians on board had interfered with his performance.
She said her husband believed his time in the Navy was over, but the commander's father said he hoped his son's career could continue. "This is a very, very professional man. I hope his career can go on," Dan Waddle said.