Navy says propeller wash damaged Arizona Memorial dock

Published: May. 28, 2015 at 7:55 PM HST|Updated: May. 28, 2015 at 8:51 PM HST
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PEARL HARBOR (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Navy said Thursday that propeller wash from the hospital ship U.S.N.S. Mercy damaged the Arizona Memorial dock Wednesday morning, causing tours to the most-visited attraction in the state to be suspended.

The Navy now estimates repairs can be completed Wednesday and the memorial reopened to visitors by next Thursday, June 4.

For a second day, about 4,300 visitors were only about to take boats that cruised near the Arizona Memorial but did not drop off passengers there.

That was a big disappointment to people like Laurie Hix and family from Georgia, whose grandfather and great uncles fought in the Pacific during World War Two.

"It's just very disappointing. We go home Saturday so we can't come back this trip," Hix said.

"We went out and rode around, but it would have just been nicer to be able to get on to the monument and pay our respects," said her husband, Michael Hix.

Abby Wines, a National Parks Service spokeswoman for the memorial said, "Visitors are definitely disappointed. For many people, this is a trip that they can only do once in a lifetime. They're out here on this island for only a handful of days and they really wanted to get out onto the USS Arizona Memorial."

A witness snapped a photo of Wednesday's accident, when the Navy said strong surge from the propellers of the hospital ship USNS Mercy damaged the memorial's dock as two tugboats guided the vessel out of Pearl Harbor.

The Navy said the repairs should be replaced by Wednesday and the tours to the memorial should resume June 4, next Thursday.

"They removed the brow, basically the ramp that connects the floating dock to the memorial. They removed that, took it back to the shipyard. And today they're evaluating that to find out how much can be repaired, whether it needs to be completely replaced," Wines said.

While the Navy is handling the repairs, the ultimately liability for the accident may be hard to determine.

"It becomes a very interesting and complicated legal issue. This is not your usual fender bender," said maritime attorney Charles Khim. He said several people were involved in operating the ship when the accident happened.

He said a Navy investigation will have to determine the answer to an important question: "Did the tugboats misguide the ship or did the captain negligently operate the vessel, maybe have it go too fast?"

The USNS Mercy is commanded by a civilian ship's master under the Military Sealift Command, the Navy said. The ship is commanded by a civilian ship's master. The master and crew are all civil service mariners, the Navy said.

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