Son of Homer family uninjured when bomb rips through Navy destroyer

Posted: Friday, October 13, 2000

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- A Homer couple's son was among the survivors of the apparent terrorist bomb attack on the destroyer USS Cole in Yemen.

Ensign Rick Eckert was uninjured Thursday's blast, U.S. Navy officials said. U.S. officials believe suicide bombers detonated explosives on a small boat next to the refueling vessel, ripping a hole at the water line.

Seven bodies have been recovered, and 10 sailors missing since the blast were presumed dead, U.S. Navy officials in Washington said. Officials said they expected to find still more bodies on Friday.

The Navy has released the names of the 17 sailors. All but one is from the enlisted ranks. Two are female.

Eckert was in charge of the Cole's power production system, which runs the turbines that propel the ship.

Families of the crew members gathered anxiously to watch as television images of injured sailors were transmitted from Yemen.

The Eckerts in Homer had more than the usual concerns. Their son usually worked near where the explosion had torn through the hull.

''... We were obviously very concerned that it was his section of the ship that had been damaged, and we feared the worst,'' father Don Eckert told KTUU-TV in Anchorage.

But the worst didn't happen. The good news finally came from Rick's wife, in North Carolina, that he was safe.

While the Eckerts were relieved that they wouldn't be getting one of the dreaded Navy telephone calls, they continued to worry.

''We're still quite concerned about his shipmates, because we haven't suffered the ultimate tragedy,'' said Don Eckert, a retired Air Force officer. ''Our heartfelt prayers go out to those who have been less fortunate.''

The Eckerts said late Thursday they hadn't heard from their son. They normally communicate by e-mail, and they were told it may take a few days for their son to be able to use e-mail again.

Don Eckert said he was pleased with the way the military had kept the family informed, and that the Navy even sent a couple of officers to Durham, North Carolina, to comfort Rick's wife, Ellen, a student at Duke University.

Still, the Eckerts said they were looking forward to the opportunity to talk in person with their son.

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