Tours on the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, have been suspended indefinitely after the USNS Mercy struck the memorial's dock, mangling the ramp and handrails. The extent of the damage is still being investigated.
The accident, first reported by Military.com, occurred at about 7 a.m. local time Wednesday, according to the spouse of a sailor who witnessed the incident. The spouse declined to be named because her husband serves in the Navy. Photos taken by the sailor from nearby Ford Island show the Mercy sailing dangerously close to the memorial.
Now instead of touring the USS Arizona from the memorial, ticket holders are being taken by Navy white boats to Battleship Row in Pearl Harbor, where they view the memorial from a distance, Navy officials said in a statement on the Navy Region Hawaii Facebook page.
"Due to safety concerns, visitors are not being allowed to disembark at the USS Arizona Memorial," the statement said. "The National Park Service anticipates that it will be several days until visitor access to the USS Arizona Memorial can be safely resumed."
Navy officials said the Mercy struck the memorial's dock while being guided through Pearl Harbor by a tug boat operated by a civilian contractor.
"Initial visual assessments show that the dock was moved about 10 feet toward the Memorial. A small area of concrete was damaged where the dock's ramp joined the Memorial. The dock's ramps and railings were also damaged," the Navy statement said.
Officials said the damaged dock has been removed and an assessment is being made to determine any other damage. A team of divers was also scheduled to do an underwater examination of the memorial, dock and Arizona's sunken remains.
The Mercy, operated by the Navy's Military Sealift Command, is based in San Diego. It recently arrived in Pearl Harbor in preparation for Pacific Partnership 2015, the largest annual multilateral humanitarian assistance and disaster relief preparedness mission conducted in the Indio-Asia-Pacific region, according to the Defense Department.
The USS Arizona Memorial is the final resting place of most of the ship's 1,177 crewmen, who were killed during the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, according to the National Park Service. The 184-foot-long memorial structure spans the mid-portion of the sunken battleship.-- Amy Bushatz can be reached at Amy.Bushatz@Military.com.