A Date with Destiny – Part VI

April 24th, 2007 by xformed


USS CARR (FFG-52) “Business Card” c.1989
Destiny. The USS CARR (FFG-52), freshly returned from a Persian Gulf deployment, where she escorted re-flagged “American” crude carriers entering and departing from the Strait of Homuz. With a crew of 189, bloated by a “single plane” detachment (meaning one helicopter) from HSL-44 (about 14 men – 5 pilots and 9 enlisted), added to a three helo detachment of AH-6 “Little Bird” helos from the Army Special Forces, they had professionally performed their duties, while in cramped quarters with their assigned and augmented “shipmates.” In addition to just being responsible for operating the ship and the air assets assigned, there were small boats and two armed barges in the Persian Gulf, which were also under the command of the Convoy Commodores. The CARR’s CO, CDR Wade C. Johnson regularly fulfilled this duty, which meant the CARR’s crew handled a large number of air and sea fighting craft, on top of their weapons and sensors. They were busy, but in the 4 actual months of doing this job, well versed in the techniques used and management of the apparent chaos of all the moving puzzle pieces. Few of the crew left the ship between the return to the States (22 March, 1988) and the day of 24 April, 1988.

USS CARR (FFG-52) – Recent Picture
For the crew of the USS BONEFISH (SS-582), this becomes a blessing.I only know this story through the words of those who were there, who became my shipmates when I reported to USS CARR in September, 1988. Three people, two from the CARR’s crew, and one from the USS BONEFISH have responded and provided me with their recollection of the day’s events. I also managed to find the CARR’s monthly mandated ship history reports from this time period. I do not know exact time frames, as the inputs and my recollection of CDR Johnson’s recitation differ, so please discount such conflicts and know there is far more to be researched.

Click each page for a larger image

The story of the fire at sea began, as told by CDR Johnson, like so (I will paraphrase the report):

We were sitting eating supper, when the OOD [Officer of the Deck] called the Wardroom to inform me that the BONEFISH had reported via GERTRUDE [underwater radio] that she had a fire aboard, it was under control, but she was surfacing. I told the OOD to put the second engine online and to get over to the last known position of the submarine. The worst we’ll look is foolish, but if they need us, we’ll be right there.

From the Wikipedia BONEFISH entry:

On 24 April 1988, Bonefish was exercising with the guided missile frigate Carr (FFG-52) 160 miles off the coast of Florida. While the sub was submerged, seawater began leaking onto cables and electrical buses in a battery supply cableway. Electrical arcing between cables caused an explosion which flashed into a fire within minutes. Temperatures in the battery spaces reached 1,200 degrees. The heat melted crewmembers’ shoe soles in the spaces above. Bonefish was surfaced and its crew ordered to abandon ship. Eighty-nine crewmembers were rescued by whaleboat and helicopter crews from Carr and John F. Kennedy (CV-67).

The CARR’s OOD ordered the EOOW to bring up the second engine, which was started by the Propulsion Systems Monitor, GS2 Shawn Hubbartt, as directed by the EOOW brought the engine online.

GSM2 Hubbartt:
I was stationed onboard the USS Carr (FFG 52) and we were out to sea operating with the USS John F. Kennedy (CV 67) somewhere off the coast of Florida that I can remember.

I was a GSM2 at the time and working in the Main Engine Room when the CO came across the 1MC informing the crew that a diesel submarine who was operating with us had surfaced very close to the Kennedy on her starboard beam… Working in Engineering, I didn’t get to see much sun light so I went up to the starboard side main deck by the torpedo tubes to go look… I could see a small submarine on the surface in broad daylight right off the starboard beam of the carrier. I didn’t think much of it at the time except that it was rather rare for a diesel sub to surface in broad day light.

I was on watch on I think at the time the 1600 – 2000 watch… I think that was the watch rotation I was in for that week. The CO came over the 1MC again only this time he said that we have a ship in distress and that we are running at high speed to go assist… He said that the USS Bonefish had a casualty at 500 feet, had to emergency surface and we were to go assist them.


USS BONEFISH 24 April, 1988 USS CARR’s motor whaleboat

Photo Credit: Paul Perris on navsource.org
H/T: Hundreds of Fathoms Blog for the pictures of the rescue.The emergency aboard the BONEFISH was a fire in the battery compartment. CTC Rod Frank was on board BONEFISH as a Sonar Seaman:

I will tell you what I remembered.

We were out on a 2 week exercise with the USS CARR, USS KENNEDY, and the USS STURGEON. The exercise was completed early on the 24th and most were headed home. The KENNEDY was already 50-60 miles away when the fire was called away.

I had just completed my submarine qualification board that morning as well so I was pretty tired and I went to my rack for a couple of hours. Around 1600 there was a 1MC announcement that there was an unknown ground on the forward battery well. Most of our fire drills started this way so my first thought was that we were going to do another drill. The next thing I know one of our electricians come in and he empties a CO2 fire extinguisher into the forward well. I moved out into the passage way to assist as much as possible. There were a couple of key players one A-ganger and a couple of electricians trying to put out the fire.

The next thing I know here comes a fire ball out of the overhead and it blows me and the other guys that were chained together through our EAB’s into the crews mess. I remember thinking that those guys are all dead the fireball rolled right over their backs and didn’t do the damage that it could have. By now though we cant see a thing in the midships compartment. It is completely black. We lost comms a few minutes later and we could feel the flames rushing across the battery well under our feet. The next thing that I remember was someone passing the word to abandon ship.

CDR Johnson described the next part of the operation:

We came up to the BONEFISH’s position at full speed, when the sub popped to the surface, the hatches came flying open and the crew was piling out like ants getting out of their nest after being disturbed. Smoke was billowing from the sub from all three of the deck hatches. I ordered 5 life rafts (the encapsulated ones) into the water and to get the motor whaleboat ready to tow them to the sub.

ET2 Joe Smirniotis witnessed this happening:

I remember seeing the black smoke rising from the hatch of the Bonefish, men exiting quickly. I asked the XO if I needed to film it and I ran to IC Gyro and got the ships movie camera. I video taped it all. The life rafts being deployed and the motor whale boat.
Our crew was willing to do all that was needed. These are our ship mates needing our help and our prayers.
Our rafts did not work. I remember 2 out of 5 inflating and one of them only part way, the top did not inflate.

CDR Johnson told me two of the rafts just hit the water and kept going down. Those were a major item inspected by the Board of Inspection and Survey, specifically to get a feel for the reliability of them. This incident supported the fleet knowledge I had that the failure rate was 50% as observed by the INSURV inspectors.

The LT Robert “Bob” Threlkeld was the Engineer Officer on CARR. CDR Johnson told him to get in the whaleboat, go over and find the CO of the BONEFISH, CDR Wilson, and bring him back aboard. Bob did. He told me he climbed aboard the sub and walked among the crew until he found the CO. He noted the smoke coming from the hatches was the worst thing he had ever smelled.

The BONEFISH CO and Bob returned and headed for CDR Johnson’s cabin. To the day CDR Johnson left the CARR in Sept, 1989, he kept the small dry erase board, with the drawing intact, that he and the sub’s skipper used to sketch the basic interior of the sub, to decide if they should mount an effort to enter the sub and fight the fire/look for survivors. The decision was there really wasn’t a chance to do that.

Sometime early in the disaster, a HS-3 SEA KING from the KENNEDY came and hovered over the BONEFISH, dropping the “horse collar” to the stricken submariners. CDR Johnson, from his close vantage point, noticed the submariners didn’t know how to get into the rescue hoist apparatus properly. He directed the CARR’s air controller to order the KENNEDY’s helo away, and to send in the HSL-44 SH-60B. Once overhead, the HSL-44 helo sent the rescue swimmer to the sub, who then assisted the BONEFISH crew in getting hoisted and flown to safety.

From STSN Rod Frank:

We didnt know if we were surfaced or not but someone went up and opened the hatch and we started to get topside. I remember that when I got up there were maybe 40 or so of my shipmates hanging on to the safety track and we could see helos coming at us. The first one came in and a swimmer jumped off and came to help get us on board. By that time we also had a life raft over the side and some guys were climbing into it. I hung around and waited for one of the helos. I left with the XO and we were taken to the CARR. These guys took us in and made us as comfortable as possible. We were all in shock this whole evolution unfolded in less than a half an hour. We spent the next few hours trying to locate our friends not knowing if they survived or not. Some of the injured were flown to the KENNEDY for medical treatment.

Shawn Hubbart reports from his view point:

I monitored the start of the standby GTM, and then waited to see what was happening… I heard the engines slow down to idle and then I went up to the port side escape trunk to go take a look at the sub.

I saw that we were quite close to a submarine on our port quarter. Then I saw the forward hatch open up and a lot of brown smoke started pouring out of this thing… I’d only been in the Navy for only about 2 years, but I do know that this couldn’t be a good thing… There isn’t anywhere to run on a submarine when there is smoke, especially brown smoke.

Then I saw a lot of sailors climbing out of the sub in what I refer to ants running out of an ant hill with water rolling in. Not a correct statement to make but it started me to see these fellow sailors cling onto this submarine on the open ocean with nothing to hold on to. I remember that we set flight quarters and we launched our motor whale boat to pick up these sailors…

Several helos were flying around us and the sub. We had our helo up in the air and I guess the Kennedy had theirs up as well…

During this this rescue operation, the “normal” communications paths were bypassed in favor of a “COTS” (Commercial Off The Shelf) system that had been in the fleet for only a few years at this point: The Joint Operations Tactical System or simply “JOTS.” While there were all the voice circuits and teletype communications available, the JOTS “OPNOTE” system, basically what we know today as email, was used to communicate directly between the On Scene Commander (CARR) and Commander, Atlantic Fleet (CINCLANTFLT). The status reports and rescued crew rosters were sent to the CINCLANTFLT Command Center, giving the Fleet Commander a first person story of the action. OSC(SW) Mike Bennett was the one I understand that kept the messages flowing as the leading Operations Specialist.

The evacuation of the BONEFISH continued, with triage being performed by HMC(SW) “Doc” Mentzer. Some of the submariners, in need of more detailed medical care were flown to the USS KENNEDY, I believe about 14 of them.

Shawn Hubbartt;

We picked up several of the sailors from the Bonefish and took them onboard with us. I remember hearing that we picked up about 80 or so sailors and there were about 14 who were seriously injured that went to the Kennedy.

Below are the accounts of what happened as the BONEFISH sailors came aboard:

Joe Smirniotis:

As the crew of the Bonefish came aboard they were given soap to shower, clothing and shoes to wear by the crew, I gave up uniforms and my tennis shoes. They were so happy.

Shawn Hubbartt:

We, the crew, gave the Bonefish sailors some of our coveralls, dungarees and shoes to wear since they had lost everything they had on the sub. We pretty much gave everything we could to these sailors since we had just had a pay day about a week or so prior to this accident. It was the least that we could do for them… I personally thought I could have given him more if he had wanted it.

I remember one sailor in particular. I don’t remember his name but I gave him my pair of tennis shoes and my rack for the night. We would be heading home to take these boys back to Charleston, SC.

I talked with this sailor and showed him what I do on the ship and he told me what he does. He was an EN3 and his job was the “Oiler” in the engine room onboard the sub. I didn’t know what that was but he told me that it was his job to oil the piston heads and valves on the main diesel engines when they were operating.

I showed him the diesel generators onboard and I remember him telling me that we had it easy with these diesels since there were valve covers on them.

The details beyond this point in the operation we’re too widely discussed, but I can comprehend the efforts made, the details and specific, seemingly small tasks that had to occur to result in the positive outcome that we know. Putting several rafts and the whaleboat in the water, crewed for rescue and assistance (R&A) work, controlling multiple helos and reporting to higher authority, while also coordinating with the KENNEDY for support is a huge task. CDR Johnson, while recounting this to me, said “We could not have done this if we had not had the experiences we had in the Persian Gulf.” He was convinced a good crew would have struggled at all of this, but to the then present crew of the CARR, making that many “puzzle pieces” work together was second nature. His point was it is an acquired skill to be able to listen to multiple radio circuits, have a conversation, listen to voice reports, direct things to happen and report up the chain of command. I have been in such positions and it takes time to train yourself to listen for the “right” words for the present situation and then focus on whole sentences coming your way when a key word is picked out of the other noise.

Rod Frank:

I cant tell you enough how much great the crew of the USS CARR was to us. Their search and rescue team were completely professional. They did an amazing job getting 92 of 95 Sailors off that burning submarine. Then they tried their best to make us comfortable for that long ride to Mayport.

The CARR took the BONEFISH survivors into Naval Station, Mayport, on April 25th, then returned to the scene and provided support to the submarine rescue (USS PETREL) and salvage (USS HOIST) ships that had arrived. USS MCCLOY (FF-1038) was also on scene to assist by this time. CARR was the ready flight deck for the receiving of supplies from shore for the salvage ships, and provided a lee for the smaller vessels during rough seas.

Shawn Hubbartt:

We pulled into port I think the next day so we could send these sailors home. Then we went back out to sea to watch over the Bonefish and the rescue efforts.

When we got back out to the area where the Bonefish had surfaced, there were a couple of ARS ships out there along with their dive teams. I think the USS Grapple and USS Grasp were there.

I remember hearing that the divers from the ARS’s were trying to keep the Bonefish afloat since the fire that was onboard had gutted the ship. The divers were trying to fill up the forward ballast tanks with High Pressure Air to keep her afloat for the tow.

Rod Frank:

We pulled into Mayport the next morning and we were flown from there to Charleston SC still without knowing who made it and who didnt. We learned a couple of days later that 3 of our shipmates didnt make it off that day.

Upon completion of the initial salvage and securing work, CARR escorted the BONEFISH, under tow, back to Charleston. Arriving approximately 1430 on the 29th of April, the CARR was met by a large banner made by the families of the BONEFISH crew men saying “Thank you, USS CARR.” CDR Johnson said the families came aboard to personally express their thanks for the work of the crew.

Not all of the BONEFISH’s crew survived. Three of our shipmates perished in the fire:

  • Lt. Ray Everts
  • 1st Class Petty Officer Bob Bordelon
  • 3rd Class Petty Officer Todd Lindgren

CDR Johnson told me all three of those men had recently reported aboard and were found in their working spaces. Do you ever think those semi-annual “Emergency Egress” drills from you berthing and work spaces are unnecessary? I found some ships, while years after this I was an inspector, and noted some made it a point to hold this training for all newly reported crew members with in 72 hours of their reporting aboard, then they would enter the 6 month training cycle with the other crewmen.

Update 4/26/2007:

From QM2/SS Richard Neault, another account from a crewman of the BONEFISH. It tells something of the fate of the three men named above, as well as provides more details on the operational conditions during the fire:

At the time of the accident I was on watch in the control room. I was a Quartermaster and at the time was a third class (Qm3/ss). We were operating with the USS Carr (FFG 52) and the JFK (CV 67) doing war games. The Carr had asked us to go deep to commence an operation, we were at periscope depth (PD). We started to go down to 250ft and the boat took on a down angle. At that time, the maneuvering room called up and said they had lost the ground on the battery well. The officer of the deck (OOD) told them to wait until we reached depth and then send a man into the well to see what was wrong. After we had reached 250ft, a man was sent into the battery well to find the problem when he then called out fire in the berthing spaces. The battery well is located under the berthing spaces. From there it gets kinda foggy for me as I did not monitor the phone communications. About 15 minutes after the fire alarm was sounded, there was a loud bang and the boat began to shudder. Instantly the boat filled with smoke. VERY thick and heavy black smoke. It came rushing into the control room and filled the room in about a second. By then the CO had already ordered us to PD, but when the smoke filled the compartment, the CO ordered an emergency blow. We surfaced, unfortunately the OOD was not wearing an emergency air breathing device (EAB). He was unable to get the hatch open and unfortunately succumbed to smoke inhalation. His name was Lt. Ray Everts. A quick side note, all three of the men who died in the fire were fairly new onboard. I had just had a conversation with Lt. Everts about the Quartermaster division on the Bone. He said that we were the best Qm division he had worked with thus far in his Navy career. He was a good guy. After we had surfaced, we were eventually able to get the control room hatch open and start one of the diesels. We used it to suck the smoke out of the compartment. The men fighting the fire were trying to get to the flames. Unfortunately, the fire was in the insulation that was located behind the walls in the berthing compartment. We would have had to remove the bunks and then the walls in order to get to it. They sure tried though. After we had been surfaced for about 15 minutes there was another loud bang and once again the compartment filled with heavy smoke. This time it flamed out the engine and aparently it had melted through an air line. At that point the CO realized that the fire was now being fed by this air line and the only thing left to do was to abandon ship and lock down the hatches and hope it burned itself out. Unfortunately, Robert (Bob) Bordelon (RM1/ss) had some sort of medical emergency (heart attack??) in the radio room and was already unconscious. YN3 Todd Lindgren was at the midships hatch waiting for his turn to go topside when he snapped (freaked out) and disappeared into the smoke. The Doc tried to locate him but was unable to due to the smoke. He was 20 years old, old enough to die for his country, but too young to buy a beer. RM1 Bordelon was less than a year from retirement. The official cause of the fire was an electrical short across the battery bus ties that eventually caught the insulation on fire. The Garbage Disposal Unit (GDU) in the crews mess had a leaky valve. That valve had apparently been leaking for some time and the salt water ate through the decking into the battery well. When we made our angle to go down to 250ft, the water that had pooled poured into the well and caused arching and sparking and from there it is now history. Had there been an explosion due to the buildup of hydrogen gas (as some sub experts claimed), you wouldn’t be reading this because I would be dead. Several of the crew of the Bone have been subsequently retired from the Navy for various reasons, including myself. Mainly because of the rumor and speculation surrounding the accident. Unfortunately, those of us who wanted the subs to be our career have had a hard time readjusting to civilian life. It isn’t that we were blamed by the Navy, its just that crews on board other boats felt that we didn’t do enough to save our shipmates, even though they were not there to actually be aware of what happened.

End of update 4/26/2007

As the CARR Command History for April 1988 reports, a memorial ceremony for those who died was held at St Mathews Lutheran Church at 405 King Street in Charleston, SC on Saturday, 28 April, 1988.

On December 23rd, 1988, Commander, Destroyer Squadron SIX, CAPT Jerry Lewis, awarded the Meritorious Unit Citation (MUC) to the USS CARR (FFG-52). Several Navy Commendation and Appreciation medals, and Letters of Commendation were also presented to the crew for their professionalism during this rescue at sea.

Here is a reflection by then GSM2 Shawn Hubbartt to wrap up his story, one with the appreciation gained from disaster:

Later on the magnitude of the fire finally came to me when I learned about the severity of the fire. I wasn’t aware that there were sailors who perished in the fire. I remember reading about the fire onboard the Bonefish and I was amazed of how severe that fire was and how fast the fire spread. A fire onboard any ship is dangerous no matter what. But I guess I took some of it for granted since I was on a surface ship and I could go out topside and get some fresh air every once in awhile.

The final word goes to Rod Frank:

The CO’s name for BONEFISH was CAPT Wilson. I don’t know much about him. He had just taken over from CDR Toney and this was his first underway period with us after an extended in port period. We had some issues that needed fixed and we were pierside in Charleston for almost 2 months before the exercise.

I do know that if he hadn’t ordered us to abandon ship when he did most if not all of the crew would have died in the fire.

Hard decisions had to be made, and thankfully, many are here to tell the tale.

I am thankful to GSCS Shawn Hubbartt (still on active duty, stationed aboard DDG-88), Joe Smirniotis and Rod Frank for their first person reports. I contacted them via Navy – Together We Served, which is a tremendous asset for such work.

Tracked back @: stikNstein, Castle Argghhh!, Third World County

This entry was posted on Tuesday, April 24th, 2007 at 8:45 am and is filed under History, Military, Military History, Navy. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

31 responses about “A Date with Destiny – Part VI”

  1. Andy Dupras, EM2/SS said:

    I had checked off the Bonefish at the end of Dec., ’87.
    I was in Great Lakes going to C school when I heard the news. I had just waken up and was starting to rouse the platoon. The TV was on in the lounge and it was turned to CNN.
    A day I’ll never forget.
    DBF
    Andy

  2. xformed said:

    Andy;

    Thank you for the comment and another piece of the history of that day.

  3. Ropeyarn Sunday “Sea Stories” and Open Trackbacks - - It’s not random, it’s CHAOS! said:

    […] late and you’re not. I let the day run away, and spent some time tweaking the story of the USS BONEFISH, which 5 other blogs, three from SWOs and two from submariners have been so kind as to post. <a […]

  4. Richard Neault said:

    I just read this posting. Thanks for doing this. I still remember this as vividly as the day it happened. The Bone was a good boat and we had a great crew, no thanks to CDR. Toney. CDR Wilson was a great CO and we wish it had turned out differently. Thanks for posting my account!

    DBF

  5. xformed said:

    Richard;

    Thanks for your accounting and if you’d like to share more, I’d be happy to add it and pass the word.

  6. Jim Chapman said:

    CDR Johnson’s account of the rescue efforts is not entirely accurate and are a bit of an overstatement of his control of the situation. I assume another "O" trying to get to the next level.

    He states that he ordered an H-3 away from rescue operations based on observations of Bonefish crewmembers not being able to properly don the rescue strap (horsecollar) lowered from the H-3.

    In fact, the H-3 was Dusty 613. I know because I was the crewman who was tracking the bonefish when it caught fire and exploded. I have the original sonar log from the incident. I personally heard the explosion as it happened in real time, and the subsequent UQC communication of distress.

    Contrary to CDR Johnson’s account, what really happened is that as soon as Bonefish surfaced on fire, we were hovering above its position assessing the situation. Carr immediately ordered Dusty 613 away from the seen. CDR Waikwisc (my pilot) refused and informed the Carr that "we are commencing rescue operations at this time."

    Meanwhile the Carr was flailing to pull their H-60 out of the barn to prepare for their rescue attempt. By the time the H-60 finally came into play, I had already rescued 12 Bonefish crewman, most critically injured. I rescued a total of 24 that day.

    What CDR Johnson could not understand from his vantage point is that I was doing a triage from the air as to which Bonefish crewman to take next. I took the most injured first. The Bonefish crewmembers under direction of my hand signals passed he rescue strap from man to man until I got to the right person (most injured). It is noted that there was one instance were a partially unconscious heavy set crewmember laying on the sail was put into the rescue strap facing backwards. But due to the seriousness of his conditon, I assessed that it was worth the risk to continue the evolution and successfully brought him aboard the helicopter.

    Due to the severity of the fire/smoke and the risk of further exposions during the initial phase of the rescue, we were ordered by higher authority to not put any more personnel aboard the submarine.

    Any other version of the initial surfacing/rescue efforts would be less than and entirely self-serving.

  7. Jim Chapman said:

    I wanted to add one more thing after reading Richard’s comments.

    Since I was there that day 40 feet above you from start to finish of that fateful day, I wanted to comment that there is no doubt in my mind that you guys did everything humanly possible to save the Bonefish and all of her crew. When the boots on your feet are melting and your OBAs are so hot that you can’t touch them, then you know that you have fought as long as you can and it is time to go. Your CO made the right call to abandon ship or else many more would have died that day.

    I did not keep up with the investigation or the inevitable political fall out, but the only people who are to blame are the senior Officers who ordered the Bonefish to sea with a known outstanding gripe that allowed the seawater to penetrate to the batteries.

  8. xformed said:

    Jim;

    I sent you an email, but hadn’t heard back. I think your part of the puzzle is one to help fill out the historical record, certainly adding to only the things I knew of this operation. I think we live near each other and I’d like to try and get together and add more detail to this story.

    I also was given the name of one of the ARS COs, as the short version was the salvage operation was none too easy. I think there’s a lot of legs in gathering the history we can.

    Shoot me a note!

  9. George Thompson said:

    They called me Bonefish not to long after I got to my next submarine because of how much I talked about her. Until today I had not read anything about the fire that happened on my former boat. As I read the article about the Bonefish I felt as though I was reading about the death of an old friend. I was a part of her crew for three years I reported to her in late 1977 and I qualified on the Bonefish in 1978. One of the things I was told during that time which stuck in my memory was if there was a fire on board do not let it get into the insulation. I was told that if the insulation ever caught on fire the boat would be like a furnace inside. What I just read confirmed what I was told over 25 years ago. I still have a lot of great memories from my time on the Bonefish and those I crewed with.

  10. Michael Webb said:

    I served with Robert Bordelon in Corpus Christi at the NAS. Met his wife. We all rode around as friends in his new car. Class guy! Always helpful and friendly.

  11. Richard Neault said:

    Jim,
    I know it has been awhile since your post, but I just wanted to say thanks for the kind comments. You may have been one of the guys to pull me from the water so definately thanks for that. It has been tough for all of these years thinking about those three great guys that died that day. Those of us who were there and tried our best to save the Bone and each other have always had a hard time trying not to blame ourselves for the loss of our friends. The Bone was a great boat and she will always be the best part of my life.

  12. Brian Hendrix (AW) said:

    My heart is with the shipmates we lost this day as well. I was the crewman that the Carr’s SH-60 lowered to the deck early on in the rescue effort. I will never forget looking into each crewmember’s eyes that day as I placed the horse collar around them and sent them to safety. Seconds seemed like hours to get everyone off the ‘Bone’ as you gents call her. There was even a point when a Chief, having noticed another change in the color of the smoke, stood up almost yelling for me to speed up the rescue effort. I remember telling him I was doing every thing I could and to stay calm as I was going to be the last to leave…. I would ask that Mr. Chapman refrain from ‘guessing’ as to what other parties in the rescue were up to during this eventful day. To clarify, the Carr’s SH-60 with Lt. Lee at the helm was in an op-event with the ‘Bone’ and therefore was the first on scene. The only absence was in order to pick up the wet-crewman[me] in anticipation of the need to coordinate the rescue from on board the ‘Bone’. My main after thought of that day was after all the survivors were safe and gone – there I was, all alone[awaiting my Heilo], smoke still billowing from the hatches, feeling a tremendous peace that I know now was the spirit of the three men who we could not save.

  13. Fred Grund FRBC(SS) said:

    Hi All
    I was on the Bell, reported just after commissioning. I went through the Flooding Incident on her. 5” saltwater Service Line in the Engine Room parted. That class of Boats had their problems; they were designed to try new ideas. Lots of the things they tried on us went on the Nukes. The B-Girls crews still meet at reunions, next one in 08 at Bremerton WA. I now work at Raytheon on the DDG 1000 Class, Every now and then I wear my “Two Ships In The Navy” shirt. Some folks have no sense of humor. One of my co-workers was on Carr and provided me with copies of about 75 photos of the Incident. I had them Digitized and will take them to the reunion. For those who criticize the actions of the crew, unless you have been their, you have no right to comment on what should or could have been done. Thanks to all who keep the memory of the Girl alive.

  14. Ronn Larsen said:

    I was the chief EM on the boat, and the EWS at the time of the fire (not to mention the next to the last person out of the boat). The efforts of the crew were nothing short of exemplary. Many thanks to the CARR and the KENNEDY. As we approach the 20th anniversary I wonder if anything is planned in Charleston to commemerate this event? I would also like to send a HUGE thank you to Cdr. Mike Wilson for being our CO at the time of the fire. God only knows what are losses would have been had somebody else had been our CO. Hope life has treated all you old BONE sailors good.

  15. jim chapman said:

    Brian Hendrix wrote:

    “I would ask that Mr. Chapman refrain from ‘guessing’ as to what other parties in the rescue were up to during this eventful day. To clarify, the Carr’s SH-60 with Lt. Lee at the helm was in an op-event with the ‘Bone’ and therefore was the first on scene.”

    Let me set the record straight. In my hands is the original sonar log from Dusty 613 in which I was the first crewman.

    For us the ASW exercise began at 1555 24 Apr 1988

    Our first simulated attack occurred at 1622

    At 1628 I heard what sounded like an explosion and frantic UQC transmission.

    Still unsure of the significance of the UQC, at 1630 Bonefish was still submerged with a bearing of 262 up doppler and within 1500 yds so the HAC ordered another simulated attack.

    We continued to hover above and track the submerged Bonefish (unknown to us but fighting the fire) until it surfaced at 1640. Hovering less than 100 yds from the now surfaced Bonefish, the HAC immediately radioed the USS Carr of the unfolding emergency. The Carr ordered us away, saying they were enroute but our HAC replied “NEGATIVE we are commencing rescue operations at this time.” Below us, the Bonefish crew began frantically pouring out of the hatches like ants out of an ant hill on a hot summer day. They desperately jettisoned their breathing devices (we call them OBAs) and melting boots.

    I saw the H-60 lower Mr. Hendrix to the Bonefish, which was well after I had already rescued 9 of the most injured submariners and delivered them to the USS Carr. I invite Mr. Hendrix to interject the exact time of the arrival of the H-60 being that Dusty 613 was on scene during the initial explosion and fire and remained in position above the Bonefish until it surface and only left the scene after we could not physically fit any more souls onboard.

  16. Bill Baker FT2(SS) said:

    Funny, I was looking for something else and came across this.

    I have read Richard’s recollection of it many times. I will give you some of my remembrances:

    I was on watch as messenger of the watch at the time of the accident (we didn’t run a full time FTOW -Fire Control Technician of the Watch because it was the old Mk101 system).

    When the call came out “Fire in Berthing, Fire on Third Street”, I sounded the general alarm. I then got out an EAB for me and one for the officer of the Deck (Lt. Ray Everts). The OOD disregarded the EAB to take the ship to PD. If anyone has ever been on a scope with an EAB on, you know that you can’t really do a good search. I believe he disregarded it because of the Carr and Kennedy being in the area, he wanted to get to PD quickly but more importantly, safely. While the boat was on the way to PD, I heard what can only be described as the sound you hear when you throw an old wet decomposing log on a fire. That crackling sound. At that point, smoke entered the control room. I have never believed in smoke as a living thing, but the smoke looked like a hand closing around Lt. Everts. At that point, things are a bit fuzzy. Things I do remember are my EAB getting filled with warm smoke (which I later found out was the dirt, oil, dust from the MSA filters installed in the system burning off). The entire ship went black and literally, you could not see your hand in front of your face.
    The next thing I remember was a couple of hands raking down my arm and someone wheezing “Help, I can’t breathe”. I didn’t know who it was but found the persons head, took my own EAB off and put it on his face. Immediately his hands flew to the facemask and I realized he didn’t want to give it back. I forcibly took it back, took 3 breaths and gave it back to him and told him we were going to buddy breath while I secure another mask. When he had the mask, I got out another one. We buddy breathed till I got the mask setup. During all this, the CO came into control and stated “XO, it’s not worth it. Abandon ship”. I know that the word went out on the 1MC. I later heard that people aft of the engine room door didn’t hear the word.

    I lost track of Lt. Everts at this time. I know from other accounts that he went to the bridge (without an EAB), tried to open the bridge hatch, but couldn’t. It was known on-board that the dogs were misaligned, but Lt. Everts came from our sister ship Barbel (SS-580) and was already qualified the ship. Squadron also knew that the hatches were messed up but when the TM1 who transferred to squadron tried to do hatch inspections and they started failing, he was ordered to stop. The inspections were later nowhere to be found. Anyway, I saw Lt. Everts on the deck nearby. I grabbed him, got out another EAB and put it on him. I will never forget the next events. I had Lt. Everts head in my lap and I was sitting cross legged. Lt. Ellsworth had gotten the hatch open and the smoke was starting to clear. Lt. Everts proceeded to go into convulsions from smoke inhalation and looked me directly in the eyes. Just thinking it caused a picture of it in my mind that was as vivid as the day it happened. I heard someone calling for people by station to leave. I distinctly heard helmsman, planesman, etc. What I never heard was messenger. The control room got deathly quiet. I called out “is anyone there” and got no response. I did it again, and then lifted the mask thinking people couldn’t hear me because I had the EAB on. Again, I heard nothing. Lt. Everts breathing became very shallow and he was unresponsive. I looked down at him and thought to myself, I can stay here and die with him, or I can get out. I chose the latter. I stood up, and then did the stupidest thing in my entire life. I took the mask off and then attempted to get it free of my belt. In my panic, I ended up pulling my entire belt off. While attempting to locate the bridge trunk, I found the chart table next to the DRT table had come down blocking the ladder. I climbed over it and got about half way up the trunk when I heard my wife’s voice “they aren’t going to do anything about that boat till it kills someone”. My response was always “I’m not going to leave you a rich widow”. I then made it to the upper level and told someone up there I was the last man alive out of control. Funny thing was, Tony Silvia was behind me coming out of the hatch and he had the connection of an EAB in his hand. Tony was in distress. On the other end was Bob Bordelon. Shawn Glappa dropped down to the nav level and was attempting to push Bob up. I had hold of his “poopy suit” at the collar. None of the three of us was able to pull Bob up. Bob was not a big guy, but our strength was just sapped. I can still hear the sound of his body tumbling down the trunk.
    Tony was taken off from the fairwater planes by helo. I ended up on the aft deck just past the sail. When the boat would go down in the wave, it would lift us up and when the boat would come back up, we would scramble back to the center and attempt to hold onto the safety track and each other.
    When it was my turn to go, I go up, went to the side of the sail and threw my new sneakers into the water. When the lifeboat got close and the boat was up and going down, I jumped on top of the raft and pulled myself inside. The next 2 hours were some of the worst in my life. I was seasick and the only place I could throw up was to unzip my poopy suit and throw up into it. I was by a hatch but couldn’t lean out. I remember just wanting to close my eyes and sleep. TMC Blackburn grabbed my hand and told me I could close my eyes, but I had to occasionally squeeze his hand to let him know I was still alive. I appreciated that. After a while, a diver came to the hatch and we were taken out one by one to a helicopter. I remember when I was in the water with the guy holding me, telling me what was going to happen, I threw up on him. To his credit, he just washed it off and kept going. He later ended up on the Kennedy on a makeshift bed next to me. He had rescued about twice the number of people he was supposed to.
    From the helo, I was deposited on the Carr and I remember a gung ho corpsman (he had just finished a tour with the marines) came up to me. All I wanted was to get horizontal. They took my clothes and gave me a dry poopy suit and I lay down. I got an IV and then transferred me to the Kennedy. When the chopper started to take off, the door was open, I was strapped into a stretcher and the stretcher moved. I grabbed the post holding the seats and held on for dear life.

    While aboard the Kennedy, they had a fire. I remember having trouble getting to sleep (couldn’t breathe well and throat was sore). On the CCTV was a Captains mast when the fire alarm went off. No one moved. I questioned what I was to do and they told me to go to bed, the fire department will take care of it.

    The next day, we go on a helo and were taken to the hospital. En-route, I was allowed to put on a harness and look out the open door. It was cool.

    Once at the hospital, they did triage and it was determined that I had pretty extensive smoke inhalation. I ended up on oxygen and albuteral. I was finally able to get in touch with my wife and family. Maybe another time I will tell you what she went through during all this. Suffice it to say, squadron was very unprepared for something like this to happen.

    I was discharged a few days later and went home.

    There were some definite heroes that day:
    Lt. Everts – For getting the ship safely to PD and the surface.
    Tony Silvia – For trying to save Bob Bordelons life.
    ??? Ledbetter – For jumping in and getting the life rafts to the boat when they were dropped off.
    Rescue swimmers – For going above and beyond.
    Jim Yates – For telling squadron about the hatches -though they shut him down on this.
    TMC ??? – Who tried like hell to get squadron to allow the hatches to be inspected.
    Lt. Ellsworth – For getting up there and getting the hatch open.

    There were also some not so heroes. I will not mention names. I will say that there is only one person whom I feel will need to answer a higher power at some point. He ordered a young seaman to let him out of the torpedo room because he wanted to be “Johnny on the spot” and ended up needing rescue not once, but twice. He wouldn’t have needed it at all if he had just stayed where he was. He needlessly risked his life and those of his shipmates. Definitely not someone I would ever want to serve on a submarine with ever again.

  17. tania said:

    well, i would like to know more of what actually happened. My grandfather was supposedly “in charge” in this submarine… and i find it interesting. His name is Will Daniels.. anyone know him

  18. Richard Neault said:

    Tania,
    if your grandfather was a quartermaster please contact me. I was also a quartermaster and would like to know about what happened to him. My personal email is rikndeb at comcast dot net. Webmaster – if you have this persons contact info, please pass this along to her. This was my chief on the Bone.

  19. Bill Seward said:

    Robert Bordelon was my best friend for one year at Jennie C. Roark Elementary school in Willis, Texas in 1960. I lost track of him after that, but never forgot him. When I heard about the Bonefish on the news and they named him, it brought it all back. He was a great guy, as I’m sure they all were. Even though I hadn’t heard from him in all that time, I still felt a personal loss.

  20. Sanjay said:

    This is just what I was looking for. Thanks for sharing

  21. Jessica said:

    I really liked the way they came off

  22. A Date with Destiny - Part VIII | Chaotic Synaptic Activity said:

    […] year, a former crewmember, FT2(SS) Bill Baker, on the BONEFISH had found the posts by accident, and left this comment, with more details, specifically about LT everts, and also abouot other details of the conditions of […]

  23. bm3 Dahn said:

    I was the helmsman in the motor whale boat, does anyone remember the 3 people I pulled out of the water, does anyone know there name.
    let me know billyboy36002@yahoo.com

  24. Tim Burnett said:

    Billy,

    I don’t know if it was your whale boat or not but myself and Chris Dolby and an officer whose name I seem to have forgotten were picked up by a whale boat. Chris and I were keeping the officer afloat. If it was you thanks for everything. If you were one of the ones responsible for picking up some of my shipmates thank you for that. Those guys mean alot to me and always will. To any of my “Boner” shipmates drop me a line @ Mixer62@windstream.net. That boat had and continues to have a great impact on my life to this day and I would like to hear from my old shipmates to see how they are doing.

  25. bentwrecker said:

    My name is Brent Eckert, a former HS-7 frogman who did the rescue and one of the four swimmers in the water with the 26 guys in the raft. I was looking to say hello to some of the folks i either hoisted or pulled from the raft that day. Im the one who said “it’s not just a job…” and they yelled back in one voice at me and said “It’s an adventure!!”

  26. bentwrecker said:

    hey chapman, good to see your alive. Anyone else can reach me in Alaska at bentwrecker@yahoo.com

  27. Joe Smirniotis said:

    To all the heros on the Bonefish,

    God put us together that day to show we all need you in our lives. I thank God each and ever day for our time together. You men are a blessing to from God to this great nation,
    the United States of America. Thank you for serving.

  28. Tom Monteith (MM2/SS) said:

    I was stationed aboard the USS John C. Calhoun (SSBN 630) when this tragedy happened. To anyone who reads this post that was on that boat, be assured that the submarine community was in complete support of all of you. There is no doubt in this old sailor’s mind that EVERYTHING possible was done. I know this because I wore dolphins proudly (as my 2 sons do today) and I know my fellow submariners. I know our training, drilling, and undying support for each other. I am proud to call the crew of the USS Bonefish as my brothers. To this day, you stand as heroes in my book. Those responsible for ordering a sub with that many known defects should have been charged with the deaths of your 3 shipmates. May God bless you and comfort all of you that are part of our proud fraternity!

  29. Glenn Shedd said:

    Today is the 25th anniversary of the Bonefish fire. I was an ET1(SS) who was lucky enough to scramble out the midships hatch and get helo’d to the Carr, relatively unscathed. Today, like every day for the last 25 years, I will thank God for this bonus day.

  30. Stephen Paul King said:

    Hi,

    I was the ” young seaman” in the torpedo room that Bill Baker FT2(SS) mentioned. That some some interesting times. I am happy to have found this blog!

  31. Bobby Nance said:

    Jim Yates is my soon to be wife’s uncle and he was on the Bonefish that day. He’s a great guy and I love our conversations when they come to visit, and I’m so thankful for the brave men who helped to save all of those who served on the Bonefish. And that goes for all service men and women out there thank you all for everything you do.

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