No courts-martial planned for key figures in sub crash

Skipper to face hearing forcing Navy resignation

April 20, 2001|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

A top Navy admiral has decided against courts-martial in the Greeneville submarine disaster but will order the sub's captain to an administrative hearing that will force his departure from the service, according to Navy sources.

In a decision that may be announced as early as today, Adm. Thomas Fargo, commander of the Pacific Fleet, will conclude that the deadly collision between the submarine and a Japanese trawler was the result of unprofessional conduct by Cmdr. Scott Waddle and lead sonar analyst Petty Officer Patrick Seacrest.

Fargo planned to hold a hearing called an "admiral's mast" to accept Waddle's resignation, which is to be granted as an honorable discharge with a pension, according to sources close to the inquiry. An admiral's mast is held to mete out punishment.

Nine crew members and students aboard the trawler Ehime Maru died when it was struck by the Greeneville on Feb. 9 off Hawaii. The sub was executing a rapid ascent maneuver.

As an enlisted sailor, Seacrest will be ordered to a similar hearing known as a captain's mast. Seacrest failed to notify Waddle and other officers that the Ehime Maru was moving rapidly toward the sub's location.

The officer who convenes the disciplinary hearing for Seacrest also could order him to a "show-cause" board to explain why he should not be dismissed from the Navy, although that is considered unlikely given his spotless 14-year record, sources said.

Four officers - including the chief of staff for the top admiral in the Pacific Fleet submarine service - will receive punitive letters or oral reprimands, although those actions will not be career-ending, sources said.

Fargo, a former submariner, has concluded that the 16 civilians aboard the sub were not responsible for the collision. But he will recommend a review of the Navy's Distinguished Visitors program and an end to captains using their boats to "show off" for civilians.

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