Cmdr. Scott Waddle will not testify in court
Wednesday, March 7th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6
HONOLULU, Hawaii (CNN) -- CNN has learned that Cmdr. Scott Waddle, the captain of the USS Greeneville, will not testify in the Navy's court of inquiry into the collision between the Greeneville and a Japanese research vessel.
Waddle's attorney, Charles Gittins, told CNN Tuesday that because the Navy has deferred a decision on whether to grant Waddle's request for testimonial immunity, he has decided that his client will not testify.
On Tuesday, a Navy admiral testified the USS Greeneville's primary mission was to "demonstrate the prowess of the ship" to civilians aboard and that several crew members said the VIP guests posed a distraction before the sub struck and sank a Japanese teaching vessel.
Rear Adm. Charles Griffiths took the stand Tuesday for a second straight day before the court of inquiry, the Navy's highest-level administrative investigation into the February 9 accident.
Griffiths described a series of missteps and painted a picture of a crew so consumed with putting on a good show for the civilians that standard procedures weren't followed.
But Griffiths said the emergency ascent procedure just before the accident was conducted properly.
"I couldn't have done it better," said the former sub commander who headed the Navy's initial investigation. "I think they did an excellent job. They got down very quickly, and then conducted the emergency blow very quickly."
The Ehime Maru was on an expedition to teach commercial fishing techniques to high school students from Uwajima, Japan. The vessel sank within minutes of being struck. Rescuers recovered 26 people, but four 17-year-old students, two teachers and three crewmen were never found.
Relatives of the missing were sitting in the front row during the testimony.
Several U.S. groups showed their support for the victims' relatives on Tuesday, presenting them with hundreds of sympathy cards and $100,000 in donations to be divided among the families and survivors.
"We will never forget what you did for us the rest of your lives," said Ryosuke Terata, whose 17-year-old son is missing and presumed dead. "Thank you for your warm support."
Signals should have gone off
Three of the 16 civilians aboard the nuclear-powered sub were at the controls with crew supervisors nearby, Griffiths testified.
"It was crowded," said Griffiths, referring to the control room.
Griffiths, also testified that a senior officer visiting the Greeneville should have realized that "corners were being cut" before the deadly incident.
Capt. Robert Brandhuber, chief of staff of the U.S. Pacific Fleet's submarine force, accompanied the civilians on the tour. He was the highest-ranking officer aboard the submarine that day and could have intervened if necessary.
Brandhuber should have "had a sense that corners were being cut" during preparations for the surfacing drill that led to the fatal collision, Griffiths said in response to questions from the panel of three admirals.
"He probably should have had some signals going off in his mind that things were being hurried," Griffiths said.
Later, Brandhuber "brooded" about this issue when questioned by investigators, Griffiths said.
Griffiths also said, "I think the primary mission of the submarine was to demonstrate the prowess of the ship to the visitors."
Asked if there are rules against such demonstrations, he said, "The practice is discouraged; this was an exception to the rule."
Sonar supervisor acted as tour guide
He said several crew members said they could not see the sub's indicators because of civilians in the control room. But Griffiths added the civilians were quiet and well-behaved.
"If they impeded, it was because of their presence, not because they were disruptive," he said.
Griffiths emphasized that the civilians at the sub controls were not responsible for the accident, saying "they had zero impact on that collision."
"They were merely acting under the direction of the watchstanders and physically doing what they were told," he said.
But Griffiths earlier said that a sonar officer who was supposed to be monitoring a trainee in the sonar room spent much of his time dealing with guests instead.
That meant that in the sonar room, there was one qualified sonar officer, one supervisor and the trainee. The sonar room monitors surface vessels.
Griffiths said under Navy requirements, a second qualified sonar officer should have been with the trainee at all times.
"His assigned duties officially were to be a tour guide for the guests," Griffiths said. "Somebody qualified should have consistently been overseeing that operator."
On Monday, Griffiths detailed a number of mistakes, which ranged from the submarine rushing to get back on schedule to vital sonar data not getting to the skipper.
He said Waddle hurried through preparations for an emergency surfacing drill, perhaps because the sub was behind schedule. Waddle ordered his crew to get to periscope depth in five minutes, despite procedures that require at least 10 minutes to check for surface vessels, Griffiths said.
Court toured sub, simulator
The inquiry is focusing on three officers aboard the Greeneville: Waddle, 41; Lt. Cmdr. Gerald Pfeifer, 38, the executive officer; and Lt. j.g. Michael Coen, 26, the officer of the deck.
The men could be court martialed as a result of the probe.
Earlier Tuesday, the three admirals on the court of inquiry toured the slightly-scraped USS Greeneville to get a better understanding of the sub's crowded control room.
"We did this primarily to better understand the evidence and to gather the facts in the most thorough manner possible," said Vice Adm. John Nathman, who along with Rear Adm. Paul Sullivan and Rear Adm. David Stone make up the court.
The three sub officers at the heart of the inquiry and their lawyers went along with the court members on the tour. The Greeneville has been dry-docked in Pearl Harbor for at least a week to undergo repairs from accident.
Following the tour, they went to a submarine training center and simulator for a demonstration of an emergency ascent like the one the Greeneville was conducting when it struck the Ehime Maru.
Government sources in Tokyo had no official comment regarding the news that Waddle would not testify, saying that they are not in a position to give any response.
But they did say Japan maintains a keen interest in the proceedings, and knowing the truth about the collision between the USS Greeneville and the Ehime Maru.