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USS Greeneville (SSN 772) incident

Answers to questions posed by
the families of the missing members
of the Ehime-Maru

These answers were provided to family members in Japan Feb. 28 by U.S. Special Envoy Adm. William J. Fallon.

1. In Japan (at Kansai Airport), Ambassador Foley said, "Since information is not available here (in Japan), questions from the families will be answered in Hawaii and that the U.S. Navy will regard this as a top priority issue and try to respond as soon as possible," and promised as such. This promise seems not to have been fulfilled, and we would like to confirm this.

Meeting the needs of the family members has been one of our top priorities. From advance notification prior to press briefings to provision of updates on the search and rescue process, family concerns have been at the forefront of our efforts, and will continue as such. Our approach has been to let the families see for themselves in Hawaii the efforts we are making to search for the Ehime-Maru and the missing crewmembers, and to be present at public meetings and briefings where information is made available. We are restrained from providing complete information on specific actions on Greeneville until the information becomes available during the Court of Inquiry. We have also provided full time interpreters and while the families were in Hawaii we maintained a continuous assistance center at various locations, actively offering our support. We will continue to support those families that may return to Hawaii for the Court of Inquiry. The support of the Japan Consul General is requested to keep the families informed of the Court of Inquiry proceeding while they are in Japan. A seat or seats will be reserved for Japan Consul General representatives at the Court of Inquiry.

2. Please show us a detailed time-line after the collision.

This is an approximate timeline from published reports and statements from the Coast Guard and the National Transportation Safety Board. Once the Navy Court of Inquiry and the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board make their reports, more detailed timelines will be available.

    · 1:50 p.m.: Time of collision in the initial report to the U.S. Navy by the Greeneville. Other times reported after the fact during subsequent investigations included 1:45 PM and 1:48 PM.
    · 1:55 p.m.: Coast Guard(CG) first notification of accident: Navy Commander, Submarine Forces, U.S. Pacific Fleet notified CG of collision following report from Greeneville.
    · 1:56 p.m.: H-65 CG 6570 Dolphin helicopter diverted from whale sanctuary flight to accident scene
    · 1:58 p.m.: CG Station Honolulu notified of accident
    · 2:00 p.m.: CG Joint Rescue Coordination Center (JRCC) received 406 MHZ Electronic Position Indicating Radio Beacon distress alert from Ehime-Maru.
    · 2:01 p.m.: JRCC issued Urgent Marine Information Broadcast
    · 2:05 p.m.: CG Station CG 246002 24-foot Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat and CG 41317 41-foot utility boat got underway.
    · 2:27 p.m.: H-65 CG 6570 on scene; immediately began searching for crewmen not already in life rafts
    · 2:31 p.m.: Station CG 24' RHIB on scene; immediately began checking each of ten life rafts for crewmen, counting them and performing triage; then began picking up survivors from life rafts
    ****Note: Each of the Ehime-Maru's ten life rafts was checked for crewmen by CG 24' RHIB, but they were not immediately picked up due to our focus on rescuing the crewmen in the water. All ten of Ehime-Maru's life rafts were recovered within 24 hours of the accident by Navy and Coast Guard ships.
    · 2:44 p.m.: CG 41' UTB on scene; immediately began transferring crewmen from life rafts.
    · 2:45 p.m.: Two Navy vessels, Hawthorne 5 and 8, got underway to accident scene
    · 2:45 p.m.: Emergency Medical Technician transferred from HH-65 Helicopter to CG 41' UTB, Two Coast Guard EMT's began administering first aid
    · 2:50 p.m.: CG 24' RHIB transferred crewmen to CG 41' UTB
    · 2:51 p.m.: Diverted CG C-130 long-range rescue aircraft to the scene
    · 3:10 p.m.: CG C-130 arrived on scene, assumed On-Scene Command, began searching for crewmen
    · 3:38 p.m.: CG small boats recovered all 26 crewmen from life rafts, transported them ashore. Nine crewmembers remained still missing; search efforts continued.
    · 3:40 p.m.: CG C-130 deployed data marker buoy
    · 3:56 p.m.: CG Helicopter dropped data marker buoy to aid in search pattern planning
    · 4:19 p.m.: CG Cutter Assateague shifted from maintenance status and got underway enroute to accident scene
    · 4:45 p.m.: Navy H-60 Helicopter airborne got underway enroute to accident scene
    · 4:47 p.m.: Navy P-3 aircraft arrived on scene and began searching for crewmen.
    · 4:52 p.m.: Navy H-60 helicopter arrived on scene; immediately began searching for crewmen.
    · 4:56 p.m.: CG Cutter Assateague arrived on scene; assumed On-Scene Command; began searching for crewmen.
    · 5:30 p.m.: USS Salvor got underway to join the search effort.
    · 6:15 p.m.: USS Lake Erie got underway to join the search effort.
*Not all events concerning this case are listed here and all times are approximate.

Additionally, it is known that the Greeneville was immediately involved in the rescue effort, providing both the initial search for Ehime-Maru crewmen and the communications to search and rescue authorities in Hawaii. Due to the sea conditions, the submarine did not attempt to bring Ehime-Maru crewmen on board Greeneville from life rafts because of the danger it would cause to the Ehime-Maru crewmen.

3. Why did the USS Greeneville conduct its training in the area of the accident?

The area of the incident was the USS Greeneville's assigned area for the day's operations. The area is routinely used by U.S. Navy submarines for training and operations.

4. Who was steering the USS Greeneville at the time of the collision? (Have the checks been made and procedures been properly followed?)

During the course of the Navy's investigation, the Navy has learned that some of the embarked visitors had been given the opportunity to participate, in a limited fashion, with the surfacing evolution. After the ship had submerged and was prepared to execute the surfacing, one guest was allowed to sit in the planesman/helmsman position. A second civilian guest was located at the Ballast Control Panel.

It is important to note that both were under the direct supervision of the qualified watchstander, and their every action was guided by crewmembers. Although their actions would normally not be expected to affect the surfacing evolution, these actions will be a subject of the investigation.

5. It is said that civilians were allowed to be involved in a simple action. Please tell us the details of this simple action.

An emergency surfacing is accomplished with the ship at any initial depth, by releasing the high-pressure air from the high pressure air flasks directly into the main ballast tanks. The high-pressure air rapidly expels water from the main ballast tanks, causing the ship to ascend. Ship's speed and stern planes are used to control the angle of ascent; however, once the high pressure expels the ballast water, the ascent to the surface can not be stopped. Once surfaced, the low pressure blower is used to expel any residual water from the main ballast tanks in the same manner as in the normal surfacing procedure. Emergency surfacing (or blow) exercises are routinely conducted for training, demonstration and to verify the operability of the associated equipment.

When an emergency blow is conducted for training, demonstration or operability purposes, the submarine comes to periscope depth to verify the area has no surface ships or other hazards. While at periscope depth, the submarine conducts searches using passive sonar, electronic support measures (equipment to passively detect the presence of radar signals from other ships), and the periscope.

When the area is determined to be clear of hazards, the submarine goes directly to the depth and speed needed to conduct the emergency blow. This depth is normally in the vicinity of 80-150 meters. The time the ship leaves periscope depth until the time the ship is ready to conduct the blow is normally about 5-10 minutes.

Once the ship has met these initial conditions for the blow the ship will conduct the evolution. The proper speed is ordered (this step is included in the procedure in the event of an actual emergency) and the rudder is placed amidships (in the center position) to prevent undesirable rolls of the ship and to prevent interference with the ascent. The bow plane control is placed at the zero position (neither rise nor dive). (On the Greeneville, one civilian was at this position and under the direct supervision of the assigned planesman/helmsman.) The stern planes controls (planes at the back of the submarine used for controlling the angle of the ship) are set to achieve the appropriate "up" angle. When these are set the actuators (valves) to emergency blow the main ballast tanks at the Ballast Control Panel are operated. (On the Greeneville, a second civilian was at this actuator position and under the direct control of the assigned Chief of the Watch.) Three blasts on the diving alarm (the signal for an emergency surface) are also sounded.

At this point the submarine ascends towards the surface. On reaching the surface, the submarine bounces a little, sometimes partially resubmerging for a short time before returning to the surface to stay. Once safely on the surface, the submarine raises the periscopes and commences a surface search. In addition, they go through the normal procedures of using the low pressure blower to blow any residual water out of the ballast tanks. As soon as it is safe, the ship opens the hatch in the sail and sends people to the bridge.

6. Why did the crew remain on the bridge of the USS Greeneville? Is there no rescue equipment on the submarine? Since civilians were on board, what would the USS Greeneville have done had it been involved in an accident?

The Greeneville was involved immediately in the rescue effort, and provided both the initial search for survivors and also the communications to Coast Guard boats and to rescue headquarters on Oahu. It was the submarine's message and communications to inform the Coast Guard that launched helicopters and surface ships to the scene. The Captain, Officer of the Deck and two rescue swimmers came to the bridge and remained on the bridge to search for crewmembers in the water, to maintain watch over the Ehime-Maru's life rafts and to coordinate and communicate with Coast Guard rescue boats. Due to the sea conditions, the submarine did not attempt to bring Ehime-Maru crewmen on board Greeneville from life rafts because it was felt such a transfer would likely increase the danger to the Ehime-Maru crewmen, and Coast Guard vessels were on the way which could safely transfer cremembers from the rafts and bring them ashore. Rescue swimmers were on the bridge of the Greeneville, ready to assist any Ehime-Maru crewmembers who were not able to swim quickly to the life rafts. USS Greeneville was fully involved in the rescue both immediately after the accident and throughout the night.

The only rescue type equipment on the Greeneville were two life rafts and life vests for the crew and guests of the Greeneville. The life rafts from the Greeneville were not used in this accident because the deck hatches could not be opened due to the sea conditions. Greeneville

7. Both Deputy Commander Case and Deputy Commander Fisher said, "The relationship between the accident and civilians at helm of the submarine is still under investigation." However, the spokesperson of the Navy clearly stated that the issue of civilians on board the submarine have nothing to do with the accident. This completely contradicts the explanation by the two. Isn't it the case that almost everything was clear from the beginning?

Submarines often take civilian guests to sea for them to learn first hand about naval operations. The guests are able to observe the crew's activities, and sometimes under supervision to participate in those activities. Thousands of civilian guests have embarked on submarines without incident, and observed activities like those which Greeneville conducted, without incident.

The Court of Inquiry has been directed to inquire into all facets of the collision. The presence of the civilians onboard and the specific implementation of the Navy's visit policy in this case are issues the Court of Inquiry has been directed to examine.

8. We have seen three people on the deck of the submarine shown on video, but when was this in relation to the time of the accident (on question 2)? At that time, was the crew of the Ehime-Maru on rescue rafts?

There were people on the top of the conning tower of the submarine, but none on the deck due to the safety issues cited. The submarine was immediately involved in the rescue effort, providing both the initial search for survivors and the communications to search and rescue authorities in Hawaii. It is unknown what time the video was taken, however the Ehime- Maru's life rafts are shown -- so it is presumed the time was within 90 minutes of the collision and about the time of the transfer of Ehime-Maru crewmen from life rafts to U.S. Coast Guard vessels.

9. Did the submarine crew really do their best in rescue activities? Wasn't there any other means available?

The submarine turned around as quickly as possible and was immediately involved in the rescue effort, communicating to search and rescue authorities in Hawaii and providing the initial search for survivors. The Captain came to the bridge with two rescue swimmers and the Officer of the Deck and immediately maneuvered the Greeneville to stay near the rafts. The captain of the Greeneville and the Ehime-Maru crewmen were unable to communicate due to language differences. According to reports from the Greeneville, had any Ehime-Maru crewmembers been spotted in the water, the submarine's rescue swimmers would have helped them to the rafts. The 3-6 foot seas and large swell in the area prevented the submarine from opening the deck hatch and it was deemed too risky to the Ehime-Maru crewmembers to transfer them from the rafts to the Greeneville via the hatch in the sail.

U.S. Coast Guard helicopter arrived at the scene within 32 minutes of notification of the accident; U.S. Coast Guard boats arrived at the scene within 36 minutes of notification. This was at the request of USS Greeneville and the U.S. Navy's Commander, Submarine Forces Pacific.

10. What was the sea like when the hatch was opened, and what were the actions taken?

The submarine was immediately involved in the rescue effort, providing both the initial search for survivors and the communications to search and rescue authorities in Hawaii. The seas were running 3 to 6 feet with a large swell in the area. According to reports from the Greeneville, rescue equipment and personnel were immediately prepared for use. The Captain, Officer of the Deck and two rescue swimmers were on the bridge immediately after the accident. The ship made preparations to receive Ehime-Maru crewmembers onboard and treat any injuries as well.

11. Were divers standing by on the USS Greeneville for rescue, and why didn't they dive into the sea for rescue?

According to reports from the Greeneville, two rescue swimmers were prepared to immediately assist any Ehime-Maru crewmembers found in the water. They were stationed on the bridge of the Greeneville. The rescue swimmers did not enter the water because the Ehime-Maru crewmembers had boarded the life rafts and no crewmembers were sighted in the water.

12. We think that there are many restrictions such as rules and laws, but this accident is quite an extraordinary case. Isn't it necessary to disclose all information beyond such rules?

The seriousness with which this tragic accident is viewed is reflected in the very high level of investigation and the seniority of the Court of Inquiry members. The upcoming Court proceedings will provide a full and open accounting for the American and Japanese people, the crew of the Ehime-Maru and the families of the missing. The Court of Inquiry is the proper process to get the facts while ensuring all legal rights are protected. We know the families are anxious for immediate explanations about how this tragic incident occurred, but in order to ensure the explanations are complete and correct, it is critical that we maintain the integrity of the investigative process.

13. Please show us the floating items that have been recovered.

The families traveled to the CG station at Sand Island to view the items recovered from the initial days of the search and rescue. We will continue to afford the families and representatives of the Japan Consul General the opportunity to see items recovered throughout the search process.

14. Please provide us with real-time update of the work schedule of Scorpio and its current status of work (by using such means as maps in showing the point of operation and results of the search).

Scorpio has located the Ehime-Maru and conducted a thorough visual search of the external areas of the ship. Scorpio also completed surveys to support initial salvage feasibility planning. A 2 nautical mile by 3 nautical mile grid box has been established centered on the Ehime- Maru location. This area has been mapped with SWISS Side Scan Sonar to identify the location of any debris. Scorpio and Deep Drone are now searching this debris field to visually examine with their remote underwater cameras any debris found. An intensive ROV search has also concentrated on a 500-meter area around Ehime-Maru. Following the completion of the search for debris and visual examination, the Scorpio and Deep Drone Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROV) will be further used for additional examination of the Ehime-Maru to support the ongoing assessment of salvage feasibility by Japanese salvage experts. The Japan Consul General and family members will be updated regularly on progress of the search. Additionally, any significant findings will be reported immediately through established lines of communication.

15. It was explained that, at the initial stage of the search, it was impossible to simultaneously search both on surface and underwater. Please explain the details.

The assets required to conduct the deep underwater search had to be flown in from San Diego, CA. Use of these deep-water search tools is weather dependent. The equipment arrived on island late Tuesday (13 Feb) with a day required to install. Extremely bad weather and resulting high sea conditions prevented the deployment of the search equipment until the afternoon of Friday (16 Feb). The ship carrying the equipment actually left port from Pearl Harbor earlier, but the rough sea state at the site prevented lowering the equipment into the water sooner.

16. Since the Ehime-Maru radioed an SOS signal, shouldn't you know the location of the sunken ship? Please stop what appears to be nothing but buying time.

The resting-place of a sinking vessel is affected by how long the vessel remained afloat after damage and the depth of water through which it sank. The surface winds and sea current apparently caused the ship to move as it sank. The Ehime-Maru was located approximately 1,500 yards southwest of the reported location of the collision site. The Ehime-Maru was located by Scorpio within eight hours of commencing the underwater search.

17. Did you let the civilians experience the emergency blow to let them enjoy the thrill of a roller coaster ride? Will you continue such a foolish "leisure land tour" in such areas with many yachts and boats?

There were a number of civilian and military observers onboard. We often provide orientation rides on submarines to business leaders, members of the community and academic leaders in order to provide them an orientation on what submarines do and how they support our national defense.

The demonstration of the ship, including the emergency blow, is carefully scripted to ensure the visitors gain a full appreciation of its capabilities. While the emergency surface maneuver is a rapid ascent to the surface with a great expenditure of energy, its demonstration purpose is to ensure the American public understands the recoverability designed into the vessel in the case of a problem while the ship is submerged. It gives about the same sensation as the lurching affect of a car driving rapidly over the top of a hill. The emergency blow procedure is practiced frequently. The Court of Inquiry will evaluate why the established procedures used by the Greeneville failed to preclude the accident, and it will evaluate the effectiveness of the procedures in place to prevent an accident from occurring. Pending the outcome of the inquiry, emergency blow demonstrations will not be performed.

All submarine maneuvers are conducted in the open ocean, which is shared by many types of vessels. A submarine is responsible, under international law, to ensure the safety of other vessels prior to surfacing.

18. At this stage, are you considering scaling down the search? Are you considering the termination of the search? Families want to bring back their members, even their bodies. Will you continue the search until that time?

We are continuing our search efforts under the water and on the surface off the coast of Oahu. Under the water, we are searching very extensively with remotely-operated vehicles and special (side-scan) sonar. We intend to recover any crewmembers found. The Navy is surveying the vessel to determine the technical feasibility of raising the vessel. That survey was completed 24 February. An international civilian salvage company is currently assessing the results of the survey and Japanese salvage experts are also advising the USN Supervisor of Salvage. It probably will take until 8 March to evaluate the data collected and develop possible salvage options. The Navy will be complete with the proposal evaluation on about 12 March.

19. At the time of the accident, there were many other training vessels which were willing to support the rescue. Why did the US side decline their offer? Also, the training vessel Oita-Maru was the only ship that participated in the rescue activities. Why can't other training vessels participate in rescue activities?

The U.S. Coast Guard coordinated the initial Search and Rescue efforts at the scene of the collision. These efforts were joined by Coast Guard, Navy and Civilian vessels and by Coast Guard and Navy aircraft. The Coast Guard specifically tasked the searching vessels with conducting specific search patterns in the area. With the USCG and Navy vessels on the scene, the Oita-Maru, and the overwhelming support of civilian mariners who requested to participate, the initial Search and Rescue effort was very thorough. The initial action and overall Search and Rescue effort was one of the most thorough and comprehensive searches ever conducted.

20. Please inform us of the normal steps to follow such as the check procedure of the emergency blow.

The most important of the normal procedures, which have been tested over many years, are to conduct an acoustic and visual search of the area prior to surfacing the ship to ensure no other ships are in the area where the submarine will surface.

21. Is the submarine equipped with life jackets?

The USS Greeneville is equipped with lifejackets for the crew and additional guests.

22. Please make sure to recover the missing members of the ship. This is the most important objective.

The location and recovery of the missing crewmembers is our highest priority. We are conducting a detailed analysis of the condition of the vessel in order to determine the feasibility of bringing the Ehime-Maru to the surface. Salvage of the Ehime-Maru from 2000 feet is an extremely difficult technical feat. Specific details of the structural condition of the vessel are essential elements to determine if the vessel can be raised. Additionally, the equipment required to raise such a large vessel will have to be brought in from another location, because there is no such equipment available locally. By 8 March we should have a technical estimate from the experts describing if and how the Ehime-Maru can be brought back to the surface.

23. Have the US military salvaged a 400 ton class ship in the past? Also, please inform us of the maximum depth of the operation conducted in the past and the experience.

The US military has never salvaged a vessel of this size from 2000 feet of water. The salvage of large vessels of this size has been conducted in the past, but the vessels were in less than 50 feet of water. The US Navy deep ocean salvage capability is limited to recovery of small object items weighing less than 1000 pounds, but we are consulting with Japanese and other International commercial salvage experts to determine the best capability worldwide. We are aggressively pursuing all available options to determine the feasibility of salvaging the Ehime-Maru.

24. How do salvage experts on the US side view the prospect of this operation regarding the Ehime-Maru?

This is a technically difficult and complex operation. A full engineering assessment is necessary to establish the feasibility of a successful salvage of the Ehime-Maru. The surveys being conducted by the remotely operated vehicles are part of the assessment stage to determine the feasibility of the salvage operation. The surveys will be used by both Navy and civilian contractors to make a determination of our ability to salvage the Ehime-Maru.

25. The US military must possess a Deepwater Submersible Manned Vehicle (research vessel). By not using such a vessel, is the US trying to spare its resources?

The U.S. military has a Deepwater Submersible Manned Vehicle (research vessel). However, the best equipment available for this operation are the U.S. Navy's remotely operated vehicles, which are being used. The deep-water submersibles bring no additional capabilities in this situation of water depth and sea conditions, and moreover are more limited because they must surface regularly to replenish operator life support systems. An unmanned ROV provides the necessary capability, relative ease of operation, and can remain at depth for extended periods allowing continued search capability. Scorpio remained underwater at the site for nearly 36 hours conducting the initial survey.

26. Was the program of letting civilians on Greeneville participate in the emergency blow planned from the beginning? Please inform us of the operation schedule of the USS Greeneville on the day of the accident.

USS Greeneville departed Pearl Harbor at approximately 8:00 a.m., and was originally scheduled to return at approximately 3:00 p.m. The agenda for the visitor's ride was published prior to the ride and included surfacing the ship using the emergency blow method as the last major event prior to returning to port. In many visitor rides, the civilian guests are provided the opportunity to participate in events at the various stations throughout the ship. Whenever visitors participate in an operation of equipment on a U.S. Navy vessel, the visitor's actions are always closely supervised and controlled by a qualified watchstander.

27. It is said that the emergency blow training has been conducted many times, but has it been publicized throughout the US? There have been many training vessels sailing around Hawaii, conducting training in the area. Have you notified them of the training by submarines?

Submarine training is not routinely publicly announced. We are reviewing records of all submarines in the Pacific to get a more exact number. The following information is provided. Operation of the emergency blow system once a year is required to maintain certification of this critical system. With approximately 20 submarines operating in the Hawaiian Operating Areas over the course of a year, this would mean at least 20 emergency blows are conducted each year. Additional emergency blows are performed for training and demonstration. The details of how submarines conduct training are not usually publicized, but pictures of the emergency blow event are frequently displayed on the world wide web and are used in U.S. Navy advertisements in national magazines.

28. Is the emergency blow training conducted many times in the area where the accident took place?

With approximately 20 submarines operating in the Hawaiian Operating Areas over the course of a year, more than 20 emergency blows are conducted each year to surface a submarine. Additional emergency blows are conducted for training and demonstration. This particular area is used frequently by submarines to conduct underway training.

29. Does a submarine have equipment similar to a voice recorder, or a flight recorder on an airplane?

Navy submarines are equipped with various types of recorders, generally with capability to record visual and electronic information from the submarine's sensors (periscopes, antennas, and sonar). Occasionally, submarines use voice recorders to document verbal communication external to the ship, i.e., communication on radios and radiotelephones. There is no requirement for the submarine to use these recording devices while performing local operations, though they may be turned on and used for training purposes. A written log of significant events, called the Deck Log, which is used by all U.S. Navy ships, is maintained by one of the Control Room watchstanders.

On the USS Greeneville, a background data-recording device associated with a ship's sensor system recorded information on various details of the ship's operation. Data from this device has been provided to the NTSB and will be utilized in the Navy investigation.

30. Please inform us of the content of the press conference held by the National Transportation Safety Board in writing, putting first priority on the family.

Transcripts of the NTSB press conferences are available and have been provided to the families.

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