Navy: Sub Crash Could Have Been Avoided

The crew of an attack submarine that struck an undersea mountain in the Pacific Ocean earlier this year did not adequately review navigation charts that warned of an obstacle in the vessel's path, according to a Navy report released Saturday.

The USS San Francisco (search) was en route to Australia (search) when the accident occurred Jan. 8 about 360 miles southeast of Guam, killing one sailor and injuring 97 others.

Had the submarine's crew "complied with requisite procedures and exercised prudent navigation practices," the grounding could have been avoided, the 124-page report said. "Even if not wholly avoided, however, the grounding would not have been as severe and loss of life may be been prevented."

The submarine hit the mountain while submerged 525 feet below the ocean's surface. The mountain did not appear on the chart being used for navigation.

Other charts, however, clearly displayed "a navigation hazard in the vicinity of the grounding," the report said. The San Francisco's navigation team "failed to review those charts adequately and transfer pertinent data to the chart being used for navigation, as relevant directives and the ship's own procedures required."

Petty Officer 2nd Class Joseph A. Ashley (search), 24, of Akron, Ohio, suffered severe head injuries in the collision and died the next day.

Ashley's father, Dan, received the report Friday and said he was not surprised with its findings. He expressed concern about the vessel's "sub notes," which are created by senior Navy commanders to chart the vessel's course and sent to crews before they embark on a mission.

Had Navy officials corrected those notes, "the accident would've never happened and my son would still be alive," said Ashley, who served in the Navy for eight years.

The skipper of the submarine, Cmdr. Kevin Mooney, was earlier relieved of his command and reprimanded. Six crew members were also disciplined. The punishment included reduction in rank and punitive letters of reprimand.

Mooney recently met with Ashley's father and together they visited the sailor's grave in West Virginia.

"He took full responsibility, and with tears in eyes, he asked me to forgive him," Ashley said in a telephone interview from Akron. "And I know Joey and him were very close."

The San Francisco sustained severe damage, but returned to its home port of Guam under its own power. It has been undergoing repairs.