Wednesday, May 23, 2012
The U.S. Navy amphibious assault ship USS Essex arrived to cheers in San Diego Bay on Thursday, 24 hours after it collided with a refueling tanker in the Pacific when the warship's steering apparently failed. Families of the ship's crew celebrated as the big ship pulled in. Andi Farquhr, wife of a 36-year-old sailor, said her husband called her from the ship and said something bad had happened. She said he told her there was a collision but gave no details. "I'm pretty sure it was scary," Farquhr said. The Wednesday morning accident between the Essex and the oiler USNS Yukon occurred about 120 miles off the coast of Southern California as the Essex was approaching the Yukon to be refueled, said Cmdr. Charlie Brown, a spokesman for the 3rd Fleet. There were no injuries or fuel spills, military officials said. Brown said the steering apparently stopped working on the 844-foot-long Essex, which was carrying 982 crew members on its way to San Diego for scheduled maintenance. It had spent the past 12 years based in Sasebo, Japan, as command ship for the Navy's Expeditionary Strike Group 7. The Essex was traveling with a new crew that came aboard for the trip to California. The ship recently underwent a crew swap with another amphibious assault ship, the Bonhomme Richard, as part of a standard procedure in the Navy to keep its ships operating. The Essex and Yukon were both able to continue toward San Diego despite the damage, which the Navy said did not compromise their fuel tanks or systems. The Yukon arrived at the Navy base in San Diego after 3 p.m. Wednesday with its crew of 82, including 78 civilian mariners and four military crew members. Brown said the damage was being assessed. He said he couldn't say how fast the ships were moving at the time of the crash because the Navy is still investigating the cause.