Bomb Damaged USS Cole Arrives At Pascagoula

Pascagoula (AP) -- The USS Cole, ravaged by a terrorist bomb in Yemen that killed 17 sailors, was hauled Wednesday to the dock of the Mississippi shipyard where the $1 billion destroyer was built.

The Navy warship, forced to ride piggyback on the deck of a Norwegian-owned heavy-lift ship because of a gaping hole in her port side, arrived at Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula about 9:30 a.m. The Aegis-class destroyer was christened at Ingalls Shipbuilding, a subsidiary of Litton Industries Inc., in 1995.

A large tarp covered the hole located amidship of the destroyer. At least 100 employees wearing hard hats worked alongside a huge crane that was pulling the Blue Marlin and its cargo to the dock.

As sailors standing on the deck of Cole looked on, metal bumpers designed to ease the docking procedure snapped as the hauling vessel bumped the dock. Crowds gathered in cold, overcast weather outside the shipyard gates, slowing morning rush-hour traffic on coastal roads. Dozens of media representatives gathered inside the shipyard but were kept away from Cole's docking space.

``It's a sad occasion when you think of the 17 sailors who died,'' U.S. Rep. Gene Taylor, D-Miss., said as he stepped onto the dock from a fishing boat that had given him an early glimpse of the arrival.

Den Knecht, vice president of industrial relations for Ingalls, said the repairs will take about a year and will cost roughly $240 million. The shipyard has already prepared a patch to cover the ragged 40-foot by 40-foot hole in the Cole. The patch will keep out water while weapons are unloaded.

American and Yemeni law enforcement authorities are still investigating the Oct. 12 attack on the destroyer. The FBI has not reported any conclusions, however Yemen's prime minister has said at least three Yemenis suspected of belonging to an international terrorist network will go on trial next month in connection with the attack.

A swarm of helicopters buzzed overhead as the 56,000 ton lift-ship Blue Marlin docked. The 466-foot Cole was dwarfed on the Blue Marlin's 584-foot deck. There was little cheering as hundreds of shipyard workers went about their chores.

Ingalls carpenter B.C. Lee, who helped build the Cole, was on hand for the arrival.

``I hate to see it coming back in that shape,'' Lee said. ``It makes me feel good the Navy chose us to repair it.''