IN THE NEWS #471 - U. S. Sub/Japanese ship

By Jerilyn Watson

This is Steve Ember with the VOA Special English program IN THE NEWS.

A United States Navy court is investigating the sinking of a Japanese fishing boat by an American submarine. Nine Japanese are believed dead after the submarine surfaced and hit the Japanese boat. The accident happened on February Ninth near Honolulu, Hawaii.

The Navy court began hearings Monday in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii to see if the three top officers of the submarine should be punished. A navy officer reported the evidence collected during an investigation of the accident.

The captain of the submarine Greeneville, Commander Scott Waddle, has been removed from his position. The Navy court could suggest criminal charges against him and other crew members. The court also might suggest policy changes for all Navy submarines. The American naval commander in the Pacific will decide about any further action.

Four Japanese students and two of their teachers were lost at sea in the accident. So were three Japanese crew members. The United States Coast guard rescued twenty-six others from the boat, the Ehime Maru. The boat was used to train young people for work in the Japanese fishing industry. Family members of the victims are attending the court hearings. Commander Waddle met privately with them Thursday to apologize.

Rear Admiral Charles H. Griffiths Junior led the accident investigation. He told the court that Commander Waddle hurried to prepare for the surfacing exercise that resulted in the sinking. But Admiral Griffiths did not directly blame any one person or event for the accident. Instead, he described conditions he said made the sinking possible.

Sixteen civilians were on the Greeneville the day it sank the Japanese ship. The civilians were on the submarine as part of a Navy public relations program. Admiral Griffiths said the civilians crowded the control room at the time of the accident.

Admiral Griffiths said a crew member had information from a sonar device that showed a ship was close by. But he did not report that information to Commander Waddle. The crew member said he was not sure the information was correct. And, he said communication was difficult in the crowded control room. Admiral Griffiths said he was sure the tragedy would not have happened if Commander Waddle had been given that information.

Under questioning by Commander Waddle's lawyer, Admiral Griffiths said he did not believe the commander had used poor judgement.

The accident has caused tensions between the United States and Japan. Families of accident victims are asking that the Ehime Maru be raised from the bottom of the sea. They hope to recover the remains of the victims. American Navy officials are expected to decide by next week if attempts should be made to lift the Japanese boat.

This VOA Special English program IN THE NEWS was written by Jerilyn Watson. This is Steve Ember.

Voice of America Special English