Navy and Coast Guard divers yesterday recovered the bodies of two of the 11 crewmen who have been missing since the Coast Guard cutter Cuyahoga sank in 57 feet of water in the Chesapeake Bay Friday after a collision with an Argentinian freighter.
The body of one crewman was found at about 10:25 a.m. near the wreckage of the 125-foot cutter, Coast Guard officials said. The second body was recovered just before dark in a hatch leading down to the crew's quarters in the vessel as divers were about to stop operations for the day.
The identities of both men were being withheld late yesterday pending notification of next of kin.
Divers began efforts to enter the hull of the Cuyahoga, 62 feet below the surface, at dawn yesterday morning after 17,000 pounds of equipment was shipped to the site during the night. The divers anchored buoys to the bow and stern of the cutter, but gave up efforts to enter the vessel at about 6 p.m.
Officials said yesterday that no bodies had yet been spotted by divers inside the cutter's hull, where many of the missing men were said to have been sleeping when the collision occurred.
While the divers strugged with the currents and choppy water of the bay, Capt. Charles Blaha, commander of the Yorktown Coast Guard officers candidate school where many of the Cuyahoga's 29-man crew had been training, spent most of the day in closed meetings with aids to attempt to piece together details of how the two vessels collided.
Blaha said yesterday that officials were now doubtful about what signals were sounded by the two vessels' whistles shortly before the collision. "We don't know if there was one whistle blow or two whistles," he said. "We don't know if it was a passing situation or a crossing situation."
The bow of Santa Cruz II struck the Coast Guard cutter midships, after sounding one whistle to acknowledge the cuter's whistle, then four more whistles to mean "danger", according to Boatswain's Male First Class Roger E. Wild.
The 18 survivors of the collision, who were returned to Yorktown Saturday night, were offered home leave yesterday, but many chose to remains at the base. Blaha said they were visited yesterday by a team of Navy psychiatrists from the Portsmouth Naval Hospital for counseling.
"We're trying to give them an opportunity to rest," Blaha said. "Perhaps in a few days they'll be able to talk about it."
The psychiatrists were part a special team called SPRINT, for Special Psychiatric Reaction Intervention Team, designed to help victims of disasters get over their shock and fears.
But as much as possible, Blaha said, "we're trying to give (the survivors) an opportunity to rest. Perhaps in a few days they'll be able to talk about it."
Apart from the psychological trauma, Blaha said, the survivor's physical conditions were still unstable. "Many of the crew members lived on board the Cuyahogo," he said. "For those, all of their personal effects went down with the ship. We are trying to get them reoutfitted."
Blaha said it customary for unmarried coast guardsmen to live on board the ship. "The married ones, of course, lived on shore," he added.
Although the training center has already sent medical and dental information to Patuxent Naval Hospital, Blaha said some medical and dental records went down with the ship
The students on the Cuyahoga had completed eight weeks of classroom training, and were scheduled to graduate in January, Blaha said. The Cuyahoga's last cruise was the first for many of the students, he said.
Margaret Robinson, wife of Chief Warrant Officer Donald K. Robinson, said yesterday her husband - commander of the Cuyahoga - was probably on the bridge when the accident occurred. I went to see him in the hospital yesterday," she said, "he didn't talk about what happened. He was pretty broken up about it." She said her husband had swallowed a considerable amount of oil when the ship sank.
A memorial service for the missing and presumed dead crew members is scheduled to be held Tuesday in Yorktown. A Marine board of inquiry, will open hearings in Baltimore tomorrow morning. "I think it was problem with getting the crew members of the Santa Cruz down to Norfolk," Blaha said late yesterday. The commander of the training center said he would probably be subpoenaed to testify at that inquiry.
For the family and friends of the missing crew members of the Cuyahoga, it was a long day. Calls were coming in to the Coast Guard commander's office constantly from friends and relatives with hopes that some of the men might have been found alive. The phones rang constantly.
"Most of us knew the majority of the men on the Cuyahoga," said one young coast guardsman at Yorktown, fighting back tears. "It feels bad."
The training center in Yorktown accommodates 7,000 students a year and normally houses 350 men. "It's like a university," said Blaha. "We have eight schools. The officer candidate school is just one of them."