Keeping the blogosphere posted on the goings on of the world of submarines since late 2004... and mocking and belittling general foolishness wherever it may be found. Idaho's first and foremost submarine blog. (If you don't like something on this blog, please E-mail me; don't call me at home.)

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Two British Submariners Killed Under Ice

Two submariners on HMS Tireless (S-88) were killed by an "explosion" of an O2 candle while the sub was operating under the Arctic ice during ICEX-2007. From the U.S. Navy press release:

The Royal Navy submarine HMS Tireless, participating in the Joint U.S. Navy/Royal Navy Ice Exercise 2007 (ICEX-2007) in the Arctic Ocean, experienced an explosion of a self contained oxygen generation candle that killed two crew members and injured one.
The explosion occurred at approximately 12:20 a.m. (EDT) March 21.
The injured member of the crew has been transported by an Alaska Air National Guard C-130 to Anchorage for treatment.
“I am deeply saddened at the loss of the crewmembers from the Tireless,” said Vice Adm. Jay Donnelly, Commander, Submarine Force. “Submariners are brothers at sea and we all feel the loss as if it were our own. We stand by to continue to assist in any way we can.”
ICEX-2007 and Royal Navy officials have confirmed that the Tireless is safe and operational and that a full assessment is being conducted.
This article from The Scotsman has more on oxygen (also known as "chlorate") candles as they're used on British subs:

Chlorate candles have been used to create oxygen on submarines since the Second World War, usually as an emergency measure if the vessel's rises to dangerous levels. According to the navy source, one such candle was ignited yesterday on board HMS Tireless, as a part of training...
...An MoD spokesman said the chlorate candles on board HMS Tireless had never failed before and, until then, had a 100 per cent safety record. Even so, their use on other boats had been restricted until safety checks could be carried out, he said.
A former sailor on British nuclear submarines insisted chlorate candles are known by crew to be dangerous. The mariner, who asked not to be named, said: "It's not a candle like you'd think - there's no open flame. It's ignited in a metal canister with a .22 bullet and they burn without any flame.
"Everyone on board will have been trained how to use them. They have definitely been known to explode before - high heat and oxygen is a combustible mix - but I couldn't imagine the force would have killed two men. Something else must have gone wrong.
"The candles line the entire sub and are used in an emergency. Next to each is a pair of asbestos gloves and a bucket of water. If you see the candle is starting to flame or burn, you simply put on the gloves and dump it into the water.
An explosion and/or fire onboard a submarine while it's under ice was always one of those "worst case" disaster scenarios you talked through during advanced damage control training. Luckily, the ice in this case was thin enough to break through, and the crew of the Tireless was able to skillfully make it to the surface.

Staying at PD...

Update 2029 21 March: Midwatch Cowboy has more on the story.

Update 2035 22 March: The lost submariners have been identified as Operator Maintainer Anthony Huntrod, 20, and Leading Operator Mechanic Paul McCann, 32. Sailors, rest your oars.


Blogger midwatchcowboy said...

I didn't think the candle comment made sense because the Brits stated that "the piece of air-purification machinery thought to have failed was fitted as part of an update in 2001."

3/21/2007 8:26 PM

Blogger Unknown said...

I saw this on CNN earlier. It's sad to hear when things like this happen. Posted a message up about it on my blog with the CNN article. My thoughts and prayers go out to the sailor and their families.

3/21/2007 8:28 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

THe sub surfaced 165 North of Barrow ALaska. A ERA chopper went out and picked up the injured party and flew him back to Barrow.

An AANG HC130 was able to transport the party toi ANchorage for treatment. If the burns are bad, he will lkely be transffered to Seattle.

ERA is a pipeline/oil field service outfit and uses long range Bell 215 choppers to service the pipeline. Luckly one was on station when the need came up (No pun) and was able to lend a hand.

Good show!

3/21/2007 9:04 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

If it was a chlorate candle, I can almost believe it. They ARE dangerous. I've seen several explode if touched by any water. The proper way to kill them after lighting is to bounce the furnace off the deck and shatter them, not use water.
They do produce flames if exposed to atmosphere outside the furnace or with the cover not tightly installed. The flames will leap about 3-4 feet up and the white smoke is incredible.
If it was a candle, it had to have been contaminated with something that pissed it off and the furnace not tightly closed.
As for the .22 caliber comment, never heard of it, but I don't know how the Brits system is set up.

3/22/2007 12:11 AM

Blogger esryle said...

"The accident occurred when a chlorate candle, used to produce oxygen, exploded during a training exercise."

Why would they be conducting training with a potentially hazardous device while engaged in under ice operations?

3/22/2007 6:49 AM

Blogger Bubblehead said...

The ORM-centric part of me was wondering the exact same thing when I first read about it last night, Eric.

3/22/2007 7:35 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why would they be conducting training with a potentially hazardous device while engaged in under ice operations?

A submarine is chock full of potentially hazardous devices. Although you'd like to minimize the danger when under ice, you can't eliminate the danger. And training on a submarine is a full-time job.

3/22/2007 7:51 AM


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