As sub sinks into retirement, original crew recalls USS Miami
By DAVID SHARP The Associated Press
KITTERY - Tom Mader remembers the USS Miami when it was a metal hull filled with shipbuilders putting the final touches on the nuclear-powered submarine at Electric Boat in Connecticut. He was the skipper when the submarine was commissioned in 1990. As a plank owner -- a Navy ship's original crew member -- he can't help but be disappointed that the fire-damaged submarine is going to be cut up for scrap instead of going back to sea to serve its country.
"I can speak for all of the plank owners: It's emotional for us to see one of the ships that we helped test and build and put to sea be laid to rest," the retired Navy captain said from his home in Benicia, Calif.
Destined for premature retirement, the USS Miami will have an asterisk next to its name when it's removed from the Navy's rolls of active warships because an arsonist caused hundreds of millions of dollars of damage, effectively sinking the ship.
The blaze started in May 2012 when a shipyard worker set fire to a box of rags and grew into an inferno that took 100 firefighters 12 days to douse.
The submarine based in Groton, Conn., which was undergoing a 20-month overhaul, suffered severe damage to forward compartments including living quarters, a command and control center, and the torpedo room. Seven people were hurt.
Other warships have been lost during peacetime, including the Thresher and Scorpion, submarines that sank with the loss of all hands. And other ships were damaged so severely they had to be scuttled. This year, for example, a U.S. minesweeper had to be dismantled piece by piece after running aground in the Philippines.
But David F. Winkler of the Naval Historical Foundation in Washington said the Miami appears to be in a class of its own because of the extent of the arson damage. "While there have been cases of internal sabotage, to the best of my knowledge this may be the first time we lost a ship to such criminal activity," he said.
The worker who set the fire said he was suffering from anxiety and wanted to leave work early. He's serving a 17-year prison sentence.
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