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How saving USS The Sullivans will be a complex process

Specialists have been brought in from Texas to oversee pumping water from flooded compartments on the World War II-era ship.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — We're continuing to keep a close eye on USS The Sullivans down at the Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military Park. The historic museum ship has been partially under water for a little more than a week now.

Over the past two days divers were checking the condition of the ship's hull able. They were also able to plug 12 ventilation holes that were exposed to the water, and crews were able to save some of the important artifacts aboard the ship in a space that was not flooded. That would include an actual scale model of the ship.

The weather wasn't very helpful earlier this week in the overall process to right the ship, but that outlook has improved with sunshine and warmer temperatures expected for the weekend. 

With the better weather divers are back in the water to make sure they know the condition of USS The Sullivans from the outside. 

And the Naval Park, U.S. Coast Guard, and the hired Bidco marine contractors are getting guidance from the special salvage team brought in here from Texas that will actually manage the pumping of water to hopefully get this ship upright again and save it.

Those divers, who we showed you Thursday, were working on the starboard or right side of the ship and now they are also checking the port or left side of the ship to check for any damage.

They are also plugging vent holes, which are actually regular parts of the ship for ventilation, but they got exposed to the water with the listing or angle of the ship so they have to be covered as well.

2 On Your Side spoke with an emergency response team leader from the T & T Marine Salvage firm of Texas, which will guide the eventual pumping of water from the ship once they're able to get inside and below the deck into those still flooded compartments. 

It's a complex process, and they have to be safe.

Clinton Williams told us: "We need to make sure we have all the details. We're depending on all the parties involved to provide details to us. The contractors and the dive parties are helping us out, and we're gathering all this information, and we're designing models to try to figure out what's going to happen as we make this pump, as we start pumping it, to make sure the ship doesn't go the wrong way."

We also asked about the overall idea of working on this type of ship, which is nearly 80 years old. T & T does have a lot of experience handling marine disasters such as overturned tanker ships and freighters and even partially collapsed oil drilling platforms in the ocean.

"We've always had good relationships with the federal agencies," Williams said. "And we pride ourselves on that. But throughout my career and T & T's career, no operation is ever the same. So, again, it just goes back to the planning and making sure that every detail is addressed."

Williams says T & T has actually handled pumping of water from the deteriorating 100 year old USS Texas battleship in Texas. That ship will soon be moved to a shipyard for restoration work at a cost of over $36 million picked up by the state government of Texas and its taxpayers.

On that note of expense, 2 on Your Side asked Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown about the mounting costs for this project with USS The Sullivans. He replied that they are still determined to save it as a legacy ship for generations to fully understand service and sacrifice of those sailors and soldiers from World War II.

Brown added: "We are going to need federal assistance. We are going to need state assistance, and Senator (Chuck) Schumer was here and indicated three buckets of federal assistance that could be provided for this, and we know that this is going to be in the millions of dollars. We have spoken to the state at the highest levels, and they will be helping with this."

The Save The Sullivans campaign had raised just over a million dollars in contributions and an added half million in federal funding for the previously scheduled repair work which was to have started this past week. Then the ship took on water and partially sank last week starting the night of April 13.




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