Three members of the South African navy are dead and a senior officer is in critical condition after seven crew members of a submarine were swept off deck and out to sea by large waves.
ByGERALD IMRAY Associated Press
September 21, 2023, 4:25 a.m.
Cape Town, South Africa — Three members of the South African navy died and a senior officer was in critical condition after seven crew members of a submarine were swept off deck by large waves as a helicopter attempted a ” vertical transfer” of supplies, the Ministry of Defense announced Thursday.
Wednesday’s accident occurred as an Air Force Lynx helicopter attempted a so-called “vertrep” — or vertical refueling — of the SAS Manthatisi submarine on the surface of the offshore ocean from the Cape coast, the department said.
The operation was immediately canceled and emergency services were launched.
All seven submariners were recovered, but three were pronounced dead. A member of the helicopter crew who had been sent as a “surface swimmer” to assist in the rescue operation was also recovered and is in hospital alongside the four surviving submariners.
The National Sea Rescue Institute and other emergency services were called in to assist with the rescue, the Defense Ministry said. An investigation will be opened into the failure of the operation and the resulting deaths, the department said.
The South African National Defense Force, which includes all armed forces, said a female officer with the rank of lieutenant commander was among those who died. The victims were named after their families were informed.
Cape Town and other areas of South Africa’s southern coast have been hit by extremely rough seas since last weekend, caused by a phenomenon known as “spring tide”.
South African armed forces analyst Dean Wingrin told the defenseWeb website that the submarine was heading to the Cape Town waterfront for a three-day naval exhibition that would begin on Saturday. The navy planned the exhibition to mark the national holiday of Heritage Day in South Africa on Sunday.
The SAS Manthatisi is one of three German-built Type 209/1400 Heroine-class submarines in the South African naval fleet and had returned to the water earlier this year after undergoing maintenance work.
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