BUFFALO, New York (KWWL) – At a press conference attended by WGRZ in Buffalo, officials revealed the start of the official operation to refloat the USS The Sullivans.

During the operation, a total of 33 holes were filled with wood plugs, along with the use of 22 water pumps to remove 7,000 gallons of water. Additional holes were repaired using marine grade epoxy. A hole near the stern of the ship is currently being investigated.

The ship began to ascend so quickly that crews had to slow down the process to avoid any damage to the hull. Although the vessel is “even getting close to the keel” according to Coast Guard Captain Lexia M. Littlejohn, repairs to the hull have yet to begin.

Buffalo and Erie County Naval Park President and CEO Paul Marzello delivered a message of hope at the conference. Marzello said: “This is the first time in 16 days that you’ve seen a lot of smiles cracking around this whole situation.”

Marzello mentioned the importance of support from the community of Waterloo. He said: ‘At our Operations 1200 meeting, we had the opportunity to zoom in on Kelly Sullivan’s Grade 4 class in Waterloo…she was very excited, and that’s why she wanted her Grade 4 students year see what happens.”

Hull repair will take place next, and Marzello said the ship should have no permanent damage. Repair costs will be unknown until the operation is complete, according to Marzello.

Littlejohn concluded the lecture by saying, “Once we have completed the salvage operation and brought it up to standard, we will send divers again and return control of the vessel to Mr. Marzello.”

Littlejohn believes a better understanding of the ship’s condition will be known next week.