JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM (HawaiiNewsNow) - Visitors to the state's most visited attraction went away disappointed Wednesday when boat tours to the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial were suspended due to damage to its floating dock.
Navy officials at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam said the damage occurred at about 7:35 a.m. Wednesday when the hospital ship U.S.N.S. Mercy was being guided by tugboats as it departed Pearl Harbor. However, it's unclear whether the Mercy hit the dock, or if the damage was done by a tugboat.
A witness who declined to be identified told military.com that the sound of crunching metal could be heard as the floating platform was hit.
"The brow is a walk platform that leads into the memorial. And so the floating platform leads into that," said Capt. Stan Keeve, commander of Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. "And so the floating platform has been shifted somewhat. It's been shifted about ten feet or so towards the Arizona Memorial."
The National Park Service suspended the boat tours to the memorial as a result. The tours usually depart the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center every 15 minutes and carry up to 4,350 visitors every day.
"Most of the day we were able to take the boats to a point in Pearl Harbor near the Nevada Key, so they were able to view the Arizona Memorial from a distance," said park ranger Abby Wines.
But seeing it from a distance was not enough for most visitors, especially those who came a long way.
"Disappointed that we couldn't do the whole tour, but it's such an amazing place and we've come all the way from Australia," said visitor Scott Pennell.
"I was very disappointed," said Pennell's companion, Tannya Kooymans. "I actually had a discussion with one of the hostesses about it, and said we've traveled all this way here and this is one of the one things that we wanted to see, and we were very devastated."
Even the boat rides to the viewing point were stopped an hour earlier when Navy divers and a floating crane arrived to make an assessment of the damage. The good news is that there was no damage to the submerged Arizona itself and just superficial damage to the memorial. And visitors will be able to take boats that will take them to see the USS Arizona from a distance, but no visitors will be able visit the memorial itself until repairs are made.
"You can see already that we are aggressively working with the National Park Service to make repairs," said Keeve, who estimated that it would take about a week.
The Park Service said the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center and other nearby attractions will remain open.
The Arizona Memorial is listed as the state's top visitor attraction, with 1.8 million visitors a year.