Greeneville officers face court probe
HONOLULU, Hawaii (CNN) -- The U.S. Navy will convene a court of inquiry to look into the submarine collision that sunk the Japanese fishing trawler, Ehime Maru .
The investigation will examine the conduct of the nuclear-powered USS Greeneville's top three officers. Depending on the findings of the court, the officers could face court martial charges.
At a news conference Saturday, Adm. Thomas Fargo, Commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, said the court of inquiry is a formal hearing and the Navy's highest form of administrative investigation.
"I expect this court to convene on or about Thursday the 22nd of February in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii," Fargo said.
Three people will be called to the court: the USS Greeneville's commanding officer, Cmdr. Scott Waddle ; the executive officer, Lt. Cmdr. Gerald Pfeifer; and the officer of the deck, Lt. Junior Grade Michael Coen.
"They will be afforded their due process rights, including the right to be represented by counsel," Fargo said.
The court will consist of three Navy officers, and the Navy will also invite Japan to send a Japanese maritime officer to participate as an adviser.
The three Navy officers will make recommendations to Fargo based on what is heard in court, and Fargo will ultimately decide what will happen to the members of the sub crew.
'Emergency blow' demonstration for civilians
The Navy acknowledged on Saturday that the emergency ascent, or "emergency blow" was performed as a demonstration for the civilians aboard, but Navy officials said it's not an unusual practice.
The Navy also released the list of the 16 civilians who were on board when the Greeneville hit the Ehime Maru.
Civilian John Hall was allowed to operate the levers that start the emergency ascent procedure, seated in the helm position. Another civilian was allowed to operate the ballast control mechanism. Both were closely supervised by Navy crew members, officials said.
The Navy has since ordered submarine commanders not to allow civilian visitors to sit at control panels and has also told the commanders not to perform emergency surfacing maneuvers with civilians on board pending completion of its investigation.
Family members seek answers
The Greeneville hit the Ehime Maru about 16 kilometers (10 miles) south of Diamond Head, near Honolulu, on February 9.
Nine people from the 55-meter (180-foot), 500-ton Japanese ship, which was carrying high school students on a research trip, are still missing; 26 others were pulled from life rafts soon after the collision.
The four students, along with three teachers and two crew members, are presumed dead.
Family members of those still missing held an emotional news conference on Friday, expressing both their sadness and anger.
"My son was a kind and peace-loving person. One of his wishes was that the world could live in peace," said Ryosuke Terdada, father of 17-year-old Yusuke Terdada, one of the missing. "To be killed by a submarine was the worst possible thing that could happen to him."
Earlier in the day, the family members were taken by bus to the Honolulu Coast Guard station, where they viewed items found from the vessel. Many of the relatives broke down, as did some Coast Guard personnel.
Interviews continue with crew, civilians
National Transportation Safety Board official John Hammerschmidt said drug and alcohol tests done on the crew of the Japanese vessel and on 25 Greeneville crew members were negative.
Testing of the Japanese crew was requested by the U.S. Coast Guard as part of the investigation, Hammerschmidt said.
He also said that interviews were completed with four of the 16 civilians who were on board the Greeneville, a 7,000-ton Los Angeles-class nuclear attack vessel, when it hit the Japanese ship. He said those interviews were conducted by telephone.
Investigators hope to finish interviewing the Greeneville's crew members by Monday, Hammerschmidt said, but he didn't know when the interviews with the civilians would be complete.
The NTSB said it will interview Waddle, who has been relieved of his command of the Greeneville and reassigned, pending the outcome of the investigation, on Sunday or Monday.
The NTSB predicts it will issue a final report on the incident in 12 to 15 months. If the investigation reveals that proper safety procedures were not followed, Waddle could be court martialed for criminal negligence, Pentagon sources told CNN.
Salvage operation in governmental consideration
Earlier Saturday, the Navy announced it had located the Ehime Maru, using an underwater vehicle.
U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Conrad Chun said the vessel was found by the remote operated vehicle (ROV) Scorpio II "sitting nearly upright in approximately 2,000 feet of water" in the Pacific Ocean. This was approximately 1,000 yards from the collision site reported by the USS Greeneville.
The Navy is also bringing in its Deep Drone submersible. It arrived from the East Coast Saturday and left the port of Pearl Harbor in the afternoon to go to the waters over the Japanese vessel.
The Navy said the U.S. government is considering a salvage operation to recover the Ehime Maru.
Chun said the ship was first identified at about 11:30 p.m. Friday (4:30 a.m. ET Saturday). Cameras aboard the ROV identified the nameplate on the stern.
There was no information on the condition of the ship, Chun said.
He would not indicate whether the extent of damage to the ship had been ascertained and it was not clear whether efforts would be undertaken to raise it.
"Whether that can be done or not will be determined later," Chun said.
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