Quick Vessel Search



Following infomration was submitted by reader Hugh Ware.

March 22, 1986 off Midway Island, Pacific

USS SECOTA (YTM 415) loses power and collides with the stern planes of USS GEORGIA (SSGN-729) and sinks just after completing a personnel transfer.

Ten crew are rescued, but two drown. GEORGIA is undamaged.

John Parrish

John Parrish wrote

I was chief engineer of the Secota during WW2.

I was on board during typhoon Louise . I wouid like to hear from crew member.

my mailing adderss is 3 Park Ave.

Knightdale, NC 27545


Kinda strange that the tug was struck from from the naval registry and placed out of service in sept.1985,

yet the collision happened in Jan of '86.

Dave La Rosa

Dave La Rosa wrote

I served on the Secota YTM-415 from 1970-72 as Electrician in Sasebo Japan. We took her through the yards at SST. In the same period we got a tug that had sunk in Vietnam, and was rebuilt.


JavRacer wrote

This was actually accidently filmed due too the fact that a shipmate got off to go to school. The guy in the dress whites on the tug boat. The C.O.B decided to use the new vidoe cameera to say good bye. When the tug lost power, two crewmen went to the engine room to restore power. but was lost at sea. The crewman in the dress whites save two of the tug personnel, but because he was on the tug never got a commemdation,



I was onboard when the tug sank. I arrived on Midway on Thursday and this was the following Saturday. We had to go all the way back to Pearl to get off as it would have taken 2 tugs to manuver sub to Midway harbor. Irony is this tug was schedualed for replacement and the replacement was in Pearl. They sailed it back to Midway. 1 crewmember went down with the ship, I saw a shark take the second. In the full length version of this video the last thing you see is me floating in the watter.

Kenny James

Kenny James wrote

I remember seeing this just after it happened. I was on USS Ohio (Blue). They changed the procedure to back emergency to flush the tug forward. I don't they have had to tryy it since then.

Jim Frazier ET1(SS)

Jim Frazier ET1(SS) wrote

I was in that video (briefly), in the radio buoy well. The video was actually shot by LCDR(SS) John Cooke, the Engineering Officer, and the crewman being transferred was EM2(SS) Charlie Felts, who was going on emergency leave after his father died. the infamous "there goes the mail" comment came from Felts's division LPO, EMC(SS) Crosby Ream, who was still topside after Felts had received his "Dolphins" from completing submarine qualifications. if our CO had ordered a back emergency bell instead of ahead standard (to regain steerageway), we probably wouldn't have gutted that tug. Might not even have punctured the hull, but as strong as those stern plane tips are, we'd have dented it for sure.


Thank you Jim for this valuable first hand recollection.

Barbara Babb (ENC(SW) USN RET)

Barbara Babb (ENC(SW) USN RET) wrote

I spent two tours aboard YTBs. 1981-1982 I was aboard YTB-826 Washtucna in San Diego and 1986-1989 I was CHENG aboard YTB-825 Wathena and YTB-790 Menominee. That said, I am also familiar with the YTM class of vessels.

The alarm you hear is a low lube oil pressure alarm, typically heard when an engine shuts down to indicate oil pressure is not at a predetermined pressure and engine damage WILL occur. When the engine shuts down, so does the engine driven oil pump, which is what causes the alarm when the engine stops.

You see, what I presume, an individual peel off and run below, also presumed to be answering the alarm. That sound is something an engineer does not forget. I know that sound well. No breaker tripped, the engine was lost. This can be proven by watching the black smoke. It stops with the alarm. You also see the smoke go away and then it returns at least twice and both times it goes away again. The engine kept going offline. (No alarm is heard on those shutdowns because the engineer did not have time to reset it after restart before engine went offline again). That could happen for a few reasons. If the screw (propeller) struck something (like the dive plane) and bent the shaft, the resulting vibration can cause an engine shutdown (had it happen on a TRB in Hawaii). Or it could have stopped the shaft, which also would shut the engine down if it was clutched in at the time (which it was).

The deck setup is such. Going in the hatch directly CL aft takes you into the galley. You have to move forward and then left(port) down a small ladder to get into the engine room.

The submarine conning officer (also presuming this was the CO with a vessel alongside) is calling engine orders out. I have heard some say that was the tugmaster. Tugmasters have no authority to do so. The order head full and rudder was premature because the vessel was still alongside. This is why you wait until the vessel clears, because they may have a problem.

Since the engine order is heard only once, it can be assumed it was the Head Person in charge calling that order out to be repeated down to the control room. The sub should not have attempted to move or change their current movement pattern until the tugboat was fully cleared of their side.

I saw no spring line from the tug. Tugs in San Diego and Norfolk have wire ropes for spring lines attached to the should bitts. Sending one over to the sub would have allowed the tug to go ahead with left rudder to kick the stern away from the sub and then when the wire rope slacks, take it in, and back safely away from the stern planes.

Going forward would have placed the large screw too close to the submarine's hull and I have never in two tours (and twenty years in the Navy) seen a vessel drive off the front. They always back away at an angle.

I was on a TRB in Hawaii (Torpedo Retriever) and we did personnel transfers with submarines as a matter of routine. We ALWAYS backed out and away (while sub was moving) (also a twin screw vessel).

In my opinion, the submarine is at fault. They did not allow the vessel alongside to clear their side before maneuvering. In addition, the XO (I presume) can be heard yelling, "Get off our stern planes." The tugboat, at that point was not under power and unable to do anything to maneuver. The final blow comes when a person on deck, not realizing the situation, states, "There goes the mail," while below the surface two people were fighting for their lives, that they lost. That comment could be what led to the person in charge on deck (presume XO) yell to clear the deck. Also, what I found most amazing, the individual lamenting the mail neglected to remember they had also transferred a shipmate to that boat before it sank.

I saw this video originally in 1986, which CHENG aboard the YTB-826 with my Craftmaster.

Ken Johnson IC1 (SW) Ret.

Ken Johnson IC1 (SW) Ret. wrote

Does anyone know if there was an official investigation and the determination? I'm sure there had to be one. There was a collision, two men lost at sea, and the loss of a vessel.