Civilian sub passenger: 'I thought the sub was breaking up'
HONOLULU, Hawaii (CNN) -- One of the 16 civilians on board the USS Greeneville when it struck a Japanese research vessel earlier this month said he felt helpless as he watched the boat sink.
Mickey Nolan said the nuclear submarine struck the boat with such force he thought the sub was breaking up -- what he called an "unforgettable experience."
"I was the last one to leave that [control] room," Nolan said. "As I stopped and waited, I was literally the last one of the group to see that vessel sink below the surface."
Nolan spoke out after being questioned by the National Transportation Safety Board about the February 9 accident, in which the submarine surfaced and struck the Japanese vessel Ehime Maru.
Nine people remain missing and are presumed dead; 26 others survived.
"All of a sudden, we heard a boom," Nolan said. "To me, it was very loud. Two more seconds had passed, we felt a shudder and that scared me more than anything because I thought the sub was breaking up, and I expected to see water rushing in."
Confusion amongst passengers, civilian says
Another of the civilian passengers, John Hall, had previously described a similar experience.
"There was a very loud noise and the entire submarine shuddered," Hall said in a broadcast interview last week. He recalled the submarine's commander, Scott Waddle, saying, "Jesus, what the hell was that?"
Waddle has been reassigned and will appear before a court of inquiry to be questioned about the collision.
NTSB investigators now have data retrieved from an electronic logging device that shows the USS Greeneville's passive sonar picked up the Ehime Maru at 12:32 p.m. Radar records show that the Ehime Maru sank at 1:43 p.m. after colliding with the submarine.
Nolan said it was chaotic aboard the submarine immediately after the accident.
"The women were almost on the verge of panic at one point, they were crying, they didn't know what had happened," he said. "They didn't understand why we were out there, and having to stay out there."
Rumsfeld to issue moratorium
Two of the 16 civilians aboard the Greeneville were at key control stations when the submarine performed the emergency ascent maneuver and struck the Japanese vessel.
The Navy has insisted the civilians' presence -- which they said was closely supervised by trained crewmembers -- did not contribute to the collision. But one crewmember cited the civilians as a distraction as he performed his duties, an NTSB investigator said.
Asked about the involvement of civilians in the sub's actions, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori said if true, it was "extremely regrettable."
In Honolulu, the Pacific Fleet announced Wednesday it had invited Rear Admiral Isamu Ozawa of the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force to be an adviser to a court of inquiry, where three officers from the Greeneville will be questioned about the accident. The court convenes Monday.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld plans to order a moratorium, possibly as early as Thursday, on civilians being allowed to take controls of U.S. military equipment, according to Pentagon sources.
The Navy and Army had previously announced similar restrictions, but Rumsfeld's order would cover all branches of the military.
CNN Military Affairs Correspondent Jamie McIntyre, Correspondent Marina Kamimura and Reuters contributed to this report.
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