Accident aboard USS Nimitz claims life

BREMERTON, Wash. Air pressure blew a 100-pound steel cap off the machinery that helps jets land on the USS Nimitz, killing one sailor and injuring two others.

The sailors were removing the cap late Friday from a piston cylinder that helps maintain tension on the cables that snag jets as they land, said Dave Youngquist, a spokesman for the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.

Investigators had not determined Saturday whether the accident was caused by human error or equipment failure. The pressure should have been released before the cap was loosened, said Lt. Robert Durand, another Nimitz spokesman.

''That's what investigators will be looking at, to see if those procedures were followed or if perhaps they had erroneous readings,'' Durand said.

The accident occurred during routine maintenance in a machinery compartment below the flight deck. It did not cause an explosion or fire, and did not involve the ship's nuclear reactor.

Landing systems like those on the Nimitz are common throughout the U.S. fleet. Jets snag the cables with hooks beneath their tails while landing on the deck.

The Navy identified the dead sailor as Petty Officer 2nd Class Daniel J. Avilla, 28, of Bremerton. Another sailor was treated for two broken ribs and the third was treated for bruises.

It was the second accident aboard the Nimitz in six months. A shipyard worker was killed in a crane accident in August.

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