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Navy officers said collision 'not a big deal': civilian.

HONOLULU, March 22 Kyodo

One of the 16 civilian guests aboard the U.S. Navy submarine Greeneville when it sank a Japanese fisheries training ship off Hawaii last month said Navy officers later told the civilians the accident was ''not a big deal,'' the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said Wednesday.

It said Helen Cullen told an NTSB official investigating the collision that in a debriefing session the day after the Feb. 9 accident, several Navy officers told the civilian guests the incident would not become an international issue.

''We knew at that point it was the Japanese, and my first instinct...was this is going to be an international incident. And they said, oh, no, no, it is not a big deal. It won't be,'' Cullen was quoted as saying.

The NTSB made public the transcripts of its interviews with 14 of the 16 civilians. Records of the interviews with the two other civilians could not be released due to transcription problems, according to an NTSB press release.

Cullen said the debriefing session was held after the Greeneville returned to a Navy base in Pearl Harbor and was attended by about six high-ranking officers, including Rear Adm. Albert Konetzni, head of the U.S. Pacific Fleet submarine forces.

She said Konetzni told the civilian guests at the time, ''We are not going to release your names...that is up to you all.''

The Pacific Fleet was later compelled to make public the civilians' names after it was accused of concealing information related to the accident.

Cullen denied in her interview with the NTSB that the civilian guests were served alcohol while on board the submarine, saying, ''The only thing we had was coffee from McDonald's.''

Several other civilians also denied the report, saying only water and soda were served.

The 6,080-ton Greeneville hit the 499-ton Ehime Maru from Uwajima Fisheries High School in Ehime Prefecture, western Japan, during a rapid-surfacing maneuver. Nine Japanese -- four 17-year-old students, two teachers and three Ehime Maru crew members -- went missing in the accident and are presumed dead.
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Publication:Japan Policy & Politics
Date:Mar 26, 2001
Words:345
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