Civilians Played No Role in Accident

Friday, March 16th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii – Three civilians who were at some of the controls when a Navy submarine collided with a Japanese trawler played no role in the accident, crew members of the USS Greeneville testified Thursday.

"I couldn't have been closer," Petty Officer 1st Class Corey Lee Harris told a Navy court of inquiry. Petty Officer Harris said the guest, Houston oilman John Hall, had his hands on the controls that initiate a rapid-surfacing maneuver but "with my hands intertwined with his." The crewman said nothing unusual occurred in the operation of the levers.

The Greeneville crashed into the Ehime Maru as it demonstrated the surfacing drill for 16 civilian visitors. Nine people, including four teenagers on an expedition to learn commercial fishing, were killed.

Besides Mr. Hall, one other guest was seated at the helm of the submarine and another was positioned at an alarm switch when the accident happened. Petty Officer Harris said all three were closely monitored by qualified crewmen.

The helmsman, Petty Officer 2nd Class William Feddeler, told the court that he stood ready to "grab the stick right away" at the first sign of trouble, and did exactly that after the collision.