Fallen MSP Sailors Named (with updates)

Norfolk-based sailors were motivated men, say family, friends
The Virginian-Pilot
© January 1, 2007
Last updated: 12:56 AM
NORFOLK – Charles McCarty usually loves watching the Bengals play the Steelers.An Ohio native, McCarty roots for Cincinnati while his roommate, Mike, always cheers on Pittsburgh.This Sunday, though, the NFL match up between the two teams was another reminder that McCarty’s friend, roommate and comrade Michael J. Holtz will never again sit next to him on the couch and shout at the TV.Holtz, a petty officer 2nd class, was one of two crew members of the Minneapolis -St. Paul killed after being swept overboard Friday when the Norfolk-based submarine was leaving port in England. The other was the submarine’s highest-ranking enlisted sailor, a position known as cob, for “chief of the boat.”Senior Chief Petty Officer Thomas Higgins, 45, is survived by his wife and teenage son in Chesapeake.The Navy on Sunday released the victims’ names but offered no further details on the incident, in which four sailors working atop the partially submerged boat were knocked into heavy seas whipped by strong winds. It’s customary for submariners to be on deck when a sub is coming into or leaving port. All were tethered to the sub.A rescue helicopter took the sailors to a hospital in Plymouth, England. Two suffered minor injuries.Holtz, a sonar technician who grew up in Lakewood, Ohio, was 30. He is survived by family and a girlfriend in Ohio, as well as a school-age son from a previous relationship, said McCarty, a petty officer 1st class who had served on the Minneapolis -St. Paul alongside Holtz.He remembered Holtz as a prankster and a sports fan who constantly searched TV and the Internet for scores of baseball, basketball and football games. Both from Ohio, they rooted against each other’s teams in the NFL but shared a passion for Ohio State University football. They’ve shared a place for three years.“I finally had somebody here that I could watch football with,” McCarty said.His buddy was a great sailor, McCarty said, “always wanting to get the job done. He didn’t like screwing around, wasting time. He was a motivated guy.”Thomas Higgins’ siblings described their brother as motivated, too – so motivated by the terrorist attacks on the United States in 2001, in fact, that he decided not to go through with his planned retirement.

His family tried to get him to take a civilian job, older sister Judith Scheffler said in a phone interview from Mayfield, Ky., but Higgins wouldn’t hear of it.

“He’d been in a long time, and we thought he’d done enough,” Scheffler said. “He said, ‘This is what I do. I need to be able to do something for the country.’ ”

Extending his tour led to Higgins attaining a position called “cob,” typically held by a sailor with more sea experience than anyone else aboard, including the captain.

Hal Higgins said his younger brother was eager to return to sea after years of shore duty, which included teaching and serving on an admiral’s staff in Groton, Conn. “This was his first assignment as a cob, and he was very proud of that,” said Hal Higgins, who also served in the Navy as a submariner. “That’s why he stayed in.”

Trained as an electronics technician, Thomas Higgins served aboard the submarines Shark, Billfish and Albuquerque, as well as the submarine tender Frank Cable, family members said.

Despite his military bearing, Scheffler described her kid brother as quiet, sweet and gentle. His 23 years in uniform didn’t harden him, she said.

Higgins – who had been stationed in Washington, South Carolina and Connecticut before relocating to Virginia a few years ago – loved nothing more than tinkering with old cars. He’d recently revived an old Ford Bronco, Hal Higgins said.

The biggest joy in his life was his 16-year-old son and his wife of almost 20 years, Scheffler and Higgins agreed. He worked a lot, so what little free time he had he spent with his son and beneath the engine of whatever car he was working on.

Both the Holtz and Higgins families are still working out funeral arrangements.

The Navy has not released the names of the two sailors injured in the incident, but Lt. Cmdr. Chris Loundermon, a spokesman for the Atlantic Fleet’s submarine force, said they will rejoin the crew at its next port call, probably in a few days.

The Minneapolis- St. Paul left Norfolk in October and spent the week of Christmas moored at Plymouth’s Devonport Naval Base. The Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine has a crew of about 135. It was commissioned in 1984.

The incident is still under investigation, and Loundermon said no more details would be released until the investigation is complete.


Please keep the families in your prayers. 


I have had a lot of people visit this blog looking for more information about the these two fallen Sailors, so here are a couple of updates:

Update 15 Jan 07 – Latest News Articles:

Two crew die in submarine tragedy – The BBC News
Answers are few in sailors’ deaths
The Virginian-Pilot 
Family, friends remember sailor who died in sub accident The Virginian-Pilot
Sailor last spoke to his family days before death  The Virginian-Pilot
Navy News StandMemorial in Rota, Spain

Guestbook for Michael J. Holtz




Memorial Info for Michael J. Holtz from http://www.mcgorray.com/  (Funeral Home)

August 19, 1976 – December 29, 2006

Birthplace:   Cleveland
Resided In:   North Olmsted Ohio
Visitation:   January 12, 2007   
Service:   January 13, 2007   
Cemetery:   Holy Cross Cemetery   

MICHAEL J. HOLTZ age 30 years.  Beloved son of  Walter and Rosemary (nee Neumann) Holtz.  Soul mate of Lindy Nagele.  Loving father of  Kyle Michael.  Dear brother of  Brian (Michelle), Gregory, Susan, Andrew, Steven and SPC Joseph (Fiance – Annie Sweeney) and special cousin of Vickie Miles.  Dear uncle of Gage Keith and Jacob Holtz.  Grandson of the late James and Marcella Neumann and Walter and Mary Holtz.  Suddenly December 29, 2006.  Funeral Mass Saturday January 13, St. Luke Church (Clifton & Bunts Rd.) at 10:00 am.  Interment Holy Cross Cemetery.  Friends may call in the McGORRAY BROS. FUNERAL HOME OF LAKEWOOD  14133 Detroit Ave. Friday 2:00 – 8:00 pm.  The family suggests memorial contributions to the Michael Holtz Memorial Fund, c/o Federal Credit Bureau, Anthony Celebrezze Federal Office Bldg., 1240 East 9th St., Rm. 2663, Cleveland, Ohio 44199

If this information was helpful to you, please leave me a comment.


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