WASHINGTON -- The Navy, revising its findings about the 1989 explosion that killed 47 sailors aboard the battleship Iowa, has concluded after months of tests and analysis that it does not have definitive proof of sabotage, say Navy officials.
The new findings, which were to be announced today by Adm. Frank B. Kelso II, the chief of naval operations, overturn the Navy's earlier conclusion that the explosion was probably an act of suicidal sabotage by a despondent sailor.
Investigators say a precise explanation for the blast will never be known, but Kelso's conclusions implicitly discredit a Navy criminal investigation that focused on the sailor, Clayton M. Hartwig, a gunner's mate second class, as the culprit.
Navy officers were to formally apologize to the family of Hartwig,
who died in the explosion, and to other families of sailors on the Iowa who were killed. Hartwig's relatives have staunchly defended him since he was first accused of possible wrongdoing after the explosion.
Several lawsuits have been filed against the Navy, including a $40 million claim by the Hartwig family.
Kelso's ruling brings closer to resolution one of the most turbulent chapters in the Navy's history, an episode that began when the explosion occurred inside the Iowa's No. 2 gun turret on April 19, 1989.