Saturday, March 24, 2007
Two British sailors were killed in an explosion aboard a Royal Navy nuclear-powered submarine in the Arctic Ocean. An injured crewmember was evacuated to a hospital in Anchorage, officials said. The explosion occurred aboard the HMS Tireless, which was submerged under an ice cap about 274km north of Deadhorse. The submarine was conducting a joint exercise with the US when its air purification system malfunctioned, British defense officials said. According to the US Navy, a self-contained oxygen generation candle exploded. The attack submarine surfaced quickly and its nuclear reactor was not affected, according to the British Ministry of Defence. The Tireless does not carry nuclear missiles. The injured sailor, whose name was not released, was transported by the Alaska Air National Guard from Deadhorse, in northern Alaska's Prudhoe Bay, to Kulis Air National Guard Base in Anchorage, 1,006km away, where an ambulance took him to a local hospital. He was taken to Alaska Regional Hospital where he was in stable condition, hospital spokeswoman Kjerstin Lastufka said. The Tireless was operating with the USS Alexandria in a joint operation to test submarine operability and tactical development in Arctic waters. The submarine's forward compartment was damaged in the explosion. The submarine was forced to surface quickly through the ice. The equipment that failed had a 100 percent safety record, according to a Ministry of Defence spokesman.
HMS Tireless (S88)The piece of air-purification equipment was fitted to the submarine as part of an update in 2001. "I am deeply saddened at the loss of the crew members from the Tireless," said US Navy Vice Admiral Jay Donnelly, commander of the Submarine Force. "We stand by to assist in any way we can." The Alaska Air National Guard in Anchorage received a call at 10:30pm alerting the Rescue Coordination Center of the explosion aboard the British sub. An HC-130 refueling tanker was launched from Kulis 57 minutes later, reaching Deadhorse at 1:26am, said Kalei Brooks, spokeswoman for the Alaska Air National Guard. The HC-130 had about six people aboard, including two pararescuemen, a pilot, co-pilot and crew chief. A private helicopter brought the injured sailor to Deadhorse. The sailor was then taken back to Kulis aboard the HC-130 where an ambulance was waiting. "He was initially reported to have some burns," Brooks said. Since 1986, every Arctic tactical exercise has involved both US Navy and Royal Navy submarines. Lieutenant Colonel Andy Price, spokesman for the Royal Navy, said the submarine, while fully functional, will be evaluated over the next 12 hours to determine whether it will continue to be part of the joint exercises or return to the UK. Two weeks of exercises are scheduled to end on March 30.