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Last Updated: Thursday, 7 October, 2004, 09:18 GMT 10:18 UK
Crewman dies after submarine fire
HMCS Chicoutimi drifting
It could take three days to tow the sub back. Pic courtesy of the RAF
A crewman has died after being injured in a fire on a Canadian submarine which has left it drifting in the Atlantic.

Lt Chris Saunders was one of three men flown to hospital in the Irish Republic from HMCS Chicoutimi on Wednesday. The others are said to be stable.

A tug has joined two Royal Navy ships trying to rescue the submarine, which still has 54 crew members on board.

Another tug is due to arrive later but bad weather means it might be Friday before the submarine can be towed.

Canada's Prime Minister Paul Martin paid tribute to Lt Saunders, 32, a married father of two, saying he "gave his life serving his country and we owe his family our deepest condolences".

A medical decision based on his condition was taken to put down in Sligo
MoD spokesman

The combat systems engineer was one of nine crew members who had suffered from smoke inhalation during the fire on Tuesday afternoon.

A Royal Navy helicopter was flying three men to Londonderry in Northern Ireland, but had to divert to Sligo in the Irish Republic when Lt Saunders's condition deteriorated.

"A medical decision based on his condition was taken to put down in Sligo," a spokesman said. "The helicopter landed as quickly as it could."

The remaining crew are said to be in "good" health and a vessel carrying food, fuel and a medical team has reached the submarine.

It has no engine power and is drifting at a rate of one to two knots in a south-to-south-easterly direction 100 miles (160km) off Ireland's west coast.

The fire started in an electrical panel in a passageway in the HMCS Chicoutimi, which is not nuclear-powered or carrying nuclear warheads.

Map graphic
Formerly the HMS Upholder, the sub was renamed after a Quebec city
Type: Long-range diesel-electric patrol submarine
Displacement: 2,185 tons (surf.), 2,400 tons (sub.)
Length: 70.26 metres
Speed: 12 kts (surf.), 20 kts (sub.)
Patrol Endurance: approx 8 weeks
Complement: 48 crew, 5 trainees
Diving Depth: 200 metres
It was on its way back to Nova Scotia from the Scottish base of Faslane, after being sold by the Royal Navy and handed over on Saturday.

It is one of four submarines the Canadians have bought from the Royal Navy - all of which are said to have had technical difficulties.

If its engines cannot be restarted, it is likely to be towed back to Scotland.

But Irish Marine Minister Pat Gallagher has said the vessel has drifted south of Eagle Island off the Mayo coast, with the Irish search and rescue zone.

"If we get a formal request from the Canadian authorities we will immediately assess its stability, integrity and the welfare of the crew," he said.

"The ideal situation would be to tow it back to the Clyde, but I am advised that might not happen depending on the weather."

The first Royal Navy rescue ship, HMS Montrose, arrived at about 1330 BST on Wednesday, followed by the HMS Marlborough and the Royal Fleet Auxiliary's Wave Knight - carrying food and fuel and with a medical team.

One tug, the Anglian Prince arrived on Thursday morning and a second, the Carolyn Chouest, is expected later, along with supply ship RFA Argus.

But Lt Cdr Denise Laviolette, of the Canadian Navy, said it might be Friday before they could get a tow line to the submarine.

She said: "We still have six-to-eight metre waves and 35 knots winds - so it is still pretty much a gale."

The early indications of the situation on board Chicoutimi [are] that the problem is nothing to do with any technical aspect, the design or build
Captain Mike Finney
The damage to the submarine is said to be more extensive than first thought.

Commander of the Canadian Atlantic fleet, Commodore Tyrone Pile, said two fires had broken out causing damage which had prevented them from restoring the submarine's power propulsion system.

"Significant damage" was also caused to the commanding officer's cabin and the electrical equipment room, on separate decks.

Captain Steve Upright, from the Faslane base, told BBC News 24 the submarine, formerly known as HMS Upholder, had been examined and declared fit before being handed over.

And Captain Finney said: "The early indications of the situation on board Chicoutimi [are] that the problem is nothing to do with any technical aspect, the design or build."

Yard completes submarine work
29 Sep 03  |  Cumbria

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