US Nuke Sub Hit an Underwater Mountain
In light of the weekend’s deadly collision of the United States Navy destroyer USS Fitzgerald with a container ship flagged in the Philippines, it seems an opportune time to recall what happened 12 years ago to the USS San Francisco.
As reported in 2005 by CBS News, the nuclear attack submarine was nearly destroyed when it collided head-on with an undersea mountain in what was described as “one of the worst accidents in modern naval history.”
“The noise was deafening, initially, (like) an explosion,” recalled the sub’s captain, Cmdr. Kevin Mooney, adding that he was thrown across the table where he had been eating lunch a moment earlier. “My first thought was that I was going to die.”
“All of a sudden, you find yourself slammed into something and the whole world is shaking,” added senior chief Danny Hager, who was in the submarine’s control room when the crash occurred. “Immediately, I knew we hit something and it was going to be bad.”
So bad that Hager told The New York Times the inside of the sub “looked like a slaughterhouse,” with blood everywhere, and injured sailors strewn across USS San Francisco like rag dolls.
Yet amazingly, and despite the gigantic submarine having been travelling at 38 miles per hour when the collision occurred, the sub’s thick inner hull remained strong, protecting its nuclear reactor and the crew’s quarters.
But with 98 of the 137 crew members injured — 20 with wounds so severe that they could no longer perform their duties — and with no other ships nearby to help, it took the San Francisco 52 hours of limping home at only 10 miles per hour to finally make it back to port.
By then one crew member, Petty Officer Joey Ashley, had already died, though thankfully everyone else made it out OK.
Long story short, 136 crew members survived that horrible ordeal, as did the $1 billion submarine, though it required many repairs before it was able to return to the sea.
Watch a video recorded from the submarine last year below:
As for Mooney, who was believed to be responsible for this ordeal, he was relieved of duty and issued a letter of reprimand.