The United States held enough of a draw for 16-year-old Suzanne Twomey of Cork, Ireland, that she spent 10 days hidden aboard a U.S. destroyer, relying on some of its crew members to keep her hidden and bring her food.
When she was discovered Friday -- one day before the ship arrived at its Norfolk home port -- Twomey was in a 2 1/2-foot-wide, 15-foot-long, 3-foot-high compartment above a refrigeration unit that she was sharing with electrical wiring and pipes.
Last night, five enlisted men from the USS Conyngham were in the Norfolk brig facing charges of aiding the importation of an illegal alien, while Twomey was discharged from a Raleigh, N.C., hospital.
It could not be learned last night where she was taken.
Irish sources said Twomey previously had tried to escape a traumatic home life. "She's sort of a waif, if you like. She would have been living rough," a Dublin police officer said in a telephone interview.
Navy and Irish officials were trying to get her back to Ireland as quickly as possible.
"There are no options but for her to return to Ireland," said Irish Embassy spokesman Daire O'Criodain, noting that Twomey is a minor and has no passport. "She is in legal limbo . . . . Our course is to get her out of this limbo as quickly as possible and get her home."
O'Criodain said the embassy had been in contact with Twomey's family.
Twomey suffered convulsions Tuesday while on a Delta Air Lines flight from Washington to Atlanta, where she was to board a return flight home. When she became ill, the plane was forced to detour to Raleigh-Durham Airport, and Twomey was taken to Rex Hospital in Raleigh.
Neither the Navy nor the hospital would describe the nature of her illness yesterday. Throughout the day, two guards flanked the door to her room to stop intruders, and hospital officials said they had been instructed by the Navy to keep reporters and others away.
Navy officials said the teen-ager had not been sexually assaulted on the ship, which was docked in Cobh, Ireland, for four days earlier this month after training exercises. As of yesterday afternoon, the officials said they still did not know how she got on board the Conyngham or why she stowed away.
"Her family circumstances are difficult, and there will be extensive welfare involvement when she gets home," said another source. Twomey, the eldest of four children, ran away from her family a few years ago and had been living "on her wits" in Ireland and London, this source said.
Embarrassed Navy officials are investigating how Twomey was able to slip aboard the Conyngham, a guided-missile destroyer returning from a European exercise, and how she remained undetected for so long.
"That's what the investigation is going to determine," said Lt. Cmdr. John Lloyd, spokesman for the Atlantic Fleet Surface Force. He said the teen-ager had not gotten into any secure areas. She eventually was found by three officers who searched the ship after hearing that a girl was on board.
The destroyer docked in Cobh on July 8 and began its return July 12, giving the men aboard four days of shore leave, Lloyd said.
"We believe they met her during the port visit," Lloyd said. He could not say whether visitors were allowed to tour the ship, as sometimes happens.
Although as many as eight enlisted men were believed to have been involved in helping the teen-ager stow away, only five were being held on a preliminary investigation by the destroyer's commanding officer, Cmdr. David O. Rose, Lloyd said. The men, who have not been identified, face possible charges of aiding the importation of an illegal alien, punishable by five years in prison and a $2,000 fine.
When Twomey was brought ashore in Norfolk on Saturday, she was suffering from dehydration and seasickness and was taken to Portsmouth Naval Hospital, officials said.
She was brought to Washington Tuesday, where she was met by an official from the Irish Embassy who gave her necessary travel documents, the embassy spokesman said.
Lloyd said the teen-ager will be accompanied to Ireland by two special agents from the Naval Investigative Service. The Associated Press identified Twomey's parents as John and Christine Twomey and said they were declining comment.
Special correspondent Joan Oleck in Raleigh contributed to this report.