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Officials: U.S. submarine hit undersea mountain

From Mike Mount
CNN Washington Bureau

U.S. Navy

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The U.S. Navy submarine accident that killed one sailor and injured 24 others occurred when the vessel -- traveling at high speed -- hit an undersea mountain head-on, Pentagon officials said Monday.

Saturday's accident near Guam caused part of the sonar dome, which is part of the submarine's nose, to flood, officials said.

The commander of the USS San Francisco, Kevin Mooney, has not been relieved of duty while the investigation of the accident continues.

Mooney could be relieved of duty if officials determine there is enough evidence that the accident could have been averted.

The investigation will look at the sub's speed, its location and whether the undersea formation was on navigational charts, officials said.

The submarine was traveling in excess of 33 knots -- about 35 mph --when its nose hit the undersea formation head-on, officials said.

The nuclear submarine docked Monday at a U.S. naval base in Guam, a spokesman with the U.S. Pacific Fleet said.

The San Francisco was escorted to port by U.S. Navy and Coast Guard vessels, according to Lt. j.g. Adam Clampitt. The submarine suffered "some external damage," he said.

"The injured sailors are being treated at a U.S. military medical facility on Guam and will be transferred to other facilities -- possibly Pearl Harbor in Hawaii or Okinawa in Japan -- as necessary," Clampitt said.

According to a military statement, the injuries included "broken bones, lacerations, bruises and a back injury."

The accident occurred about 350 miles (560 kilometers) south of Guam, the U.S. Navy said. There were 137 crew on board at the time of the accident.

Machinist Mate 2nd Class Joseph Allen Ashley, 24, of Akron, Ohio, died Sunday from injuries suffered in the accident, Clampitt said. "The Navy continues to offer its sincerest condolences and prayers to the family and friends of Petty Officer Ashley," he said.

Navy sources said the submarine was en route to Brisbane, Australia, for a port visit at the time of the accident. There was no damage to the sub's nuclear reactor, according to Clampitt.

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