A new nuclear-powered submarine on a routine training mission received minor damage when it was struck by a Turkish cargo ship Monday evening off Virginia's Eastern Shore, a Navy spokesman said yesterday.
There were no injuries reported on either vessel nor were the submarine's nuclear reactor or propulsion system damaged, according to Lt. Cmdr. Tony Hilton, the Navy spokesman. Both vessels were able to make their way without assistance to the Newport News-Norfolk area where the Navy's Atlantic Fleet is headquartered, he said.
Hilton declined to offer an explanation for the accident, saying that the matter could be the subject of litigation. He said, however, that while the cargo ship General Z. Dogan received minor damage in the bow, damage to the attack submarine Jacksonville was limited to its starboard, or right, side. He also said that "so far, I've heard nothing" about whether any disciplinary action is being contemplated against Cmdr. Dennis G. Feuerbacher, skipper of the submarine.
According to Hilton, the Jacksonville was outbound, traveling on the surface about 25 miles east of Cape Charles when the collision occurred. The 510-foot-long Turkish ship was bound for Richmond, carrying a cargo of tobacco.
Coast Guard spokesman Mike Eardley said yesterday that a Coast Guard investigator surveyed the damage to the Dogan and determined that it was "minor." Eardley said that it was cleared for travel up the James River to Richmond. Before it leaves U.S. waters it must be examined to make certain that "there's no danger to the crew or vessel," Eardley said.
Hilton said the one-year-old Jacksonville received "bumps and scrapes" only. "We may or may not decide to pull it out of the water and look at it in dry dock," he said. "Right now they're looking at it in the water."
The 360-foot Los Angeles class submarine carries no missiles and is designed to combat other submarines and surface craft only, Hilton said. Cmdr. Feuerbacher and many of the current crew of 126 have been with the sub since its commissioning, he said.
On April 9, 1981, another U.S. nuclear submarine, the George Washington, struck a Japanese freighter in the East China sea. The freighter, the Nissho Maru, sank almost instantly, killing two of its 15 crew members. That accident was blamed by the Navy on poor visibility, but both the boat's captain and deck officer at the time were later reprimanded.