Families of 37 sailors killed in the USS Iowa explosion accused the Navy of negligence in a suit filed Thursday in Alexandria, Va., and said authorities are trying to cover up the real cause of the disaster.

The class action suit, which seeks "in excess of $100,000" for each of the families, is a companion to about $1.8 billion in claims filed against the Department of the Navy in Washington.The class action suit was filed against the Navy's judge advocate general's office in Alexandria, Va., as a precaution, Miami lawyer Ellis Rubin said in announcing the action.

"There was some concern that since this explosion happened on the high seas the proper place to file would be under the Admiralty Act in the district where the ship is located," he said. "The USS Iowa is homeported in Norfolk, Va."

The suit came as the two-year statute of limitations ran out for survivors of victims on the Iowa to file for damages resulting from the April 19, 1989, incident.

The explosion in the vessel's 16-inch gun turret No. 2 occurred about 300 miles north of Puerto Rico and claimed 47 lives. Rubin said he had not heard from the other 10 families.

However, the family of Clayton Hartwig joined the other claimants by filing a $40 million wrongful death suit against the judge advocate general. At one point, officials said Hartwig was a homosexual who blew up the turret because of an affair he was having with another sailor.

Kathleen Kubicina, Hartwig's sister from Cleveland, said that theory was another of the Navy's attempts to cover up the truth. She said the main reason her family filed the suit was to make the Navy reveal the truth.