Nuclear Sub Missed Warning Signs Before Crash, Navy Says

By THE NEW YORK TIMES

March 13, 2005

Navy investigators have found that the officers on a nuclear submarine failed to take into account a variety of danger signs before the vessel smashed into an undersea mountain in January, Navy officials said in interviews last week.

The officials said crew members on the submarine, the San Francisco, did not look at some navigational charts of the South Pacific that might have prompted more caution. The sailors also should have checked the water depth more frequently and should not have been traveling at high speed, the officials said.

One sailor was killed and 98 were injured on Jan. 8 when the submarine crashed into the mountain 360 miles southeast of Guam. The Navy has said the mountain was not marked on the charts, but investigators found that several charts showed other possible hazards and had inconsistencies that should have made officers more cautious.

The findings are part of a report that is likely to be released within several weeks. The submarine's captain, Cmdr. Kevin Mooney, has been replaced, and Navy officials said other officers could be disciplined. The accident crushed the vessel's bow, and repairs could cost $90 million to $100 million.

Lt. Cmdr. Jeff A. Davis, a spokesman for the Pacific Fleet, would not comment on the investigation. But he said the Navy had briefed the rest of its submarine captains on maintaining "a skeptical attitude" about the charts.