Sometimes We Forget How Dangerous Submarining Really Is
Sixth Fleet HQ has announced the death of two submariners from the USS Minneapolis-St. Paul (SSN 708), who were washed overboard with two other shipmates during a port egress today from Plymouth, England. From a CNN article on the accident:
Authorities received a request for help just before 1 p.m. near the large concrete breakwater barrier that protects Plymouth harbor. The British coast guard dispatched a search and rescue helicopter and a lifeboat to the scene, but police had already plucked the sailors from the water.Minneapolis-St. Paul is currently about midway through a routine deployment; she left at the beginning of October, nominally as part of the Eisenhower CSG:
Sean Brooks, a coast guard officer, said that rescuers initially only saw two sailors tied to the vessel's hull with ropes.
"Because of the violent weather, they were frequently plunged below the waves," he said. "It then transpired that there were already two other guys in the water."...
...Servello, the Navy spokesman, said the submarine had just completed a weeklong layover in Plymouth and was heading out to sea for routine duties.
Winds gusts reached 47 mph and there were light rains, Britain's Meteorological Office said.
Provan, the police spokesman, said the submarine continued on its journey, but would be returning to Plymouth harbor on Saturday, once the weather and tides become more favorable.
Working topside in rough weather is one of the most dangerous things submariners do, and one of the things we practice least frequently. From the sounds of it, all Sailors involved were wearing their safety harnesses; from the early reports, it sounds like they may have been rigging topside for dive (as PigBoatSailor suggests over at Ultraquiet No More). I've seen cases before where, in order to more easily reach cleats and vent covers a good distance from the safety harness track on the towed array fairing, Sailors working topside have disconnected from their deck traveller and hooked onto a buddy who was attached to the safety track. (I have no idea if that was the case this time.) Right now, our thoughts are with the families and shipmates of the fallen Sailors.
The Sub Report has many more stories on this tragedy, including this report from a Norfolk-area newspaper.
Staying at PD...
Update 0640 31 Dec: The names of the Sailors who gave their lives have been released.