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Two crew die in submarine tragedy

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Two crew die in submarine tragedy

Postby DavieTait » Fri Dec 29, 2006 4:16 pm

I'll quote from the start of the BBC news page and link to the rest.

"Two crew members of an American submarine have died after falling overboard in Plymouth Sound.

They were among four crewmen who were working in poor weather on the outside casing of the USS Minneapolis-St Paul off the Devon coast.

A rescue helicopter from RNAS Culdrose, a tug boat and a lifeboat were sent to the men's aid while they were tied on to the side of the 110m (362ft) vessel.

The sailors were brought back to shore and taken by ambulance to hospital.

They were taken to Derriford hospital in Plymouth.


They were tied on but getting battered about by the weather
Brixham Coastguard spokesman

The two other men were transferred to the sick bay at the HMS Drake and later released. "

BBC News story

My thoughts go out to the families of the 2 men who have died.

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Postby TMSmalley » Fri Dec 29, 2006 7:27 pm

They usually wear PFDs on deck. Poor guys must have been really bashed around by heavy seas.
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Postby TMSmalley » Sat Jan 06, 2007 1:11 pm

Expert says 'tragic coincidences' could have led to sailors' deaths


By Bryan Mitchell and Sandra Jontz, Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Friday, January 5, 2007



RAF MILDENHALL, England — An expert in naval affairs said the submarine accident that killed two American sailors in Plymouth Harbor late last week may have been the result of “tragic coincidences.”

“It sounds like the water was just high enough and the waves were just right and the men banged their heads on their way down and drowned,” said Nick Brown, editor of Jane’s Navy International. “It sounds like a set of tragic coincidences more than anything.”

Senior Chief Petty Officer Thomas E. Higgins, 45, and Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael J. Holtz, 30, were killed after they were washed from the deck of the USS Minneapolis-St. Paul in a fierce winter storm in Plymouth Harbor on Dec. 29.

Two other sailors, whom the Navy has declined to name because of privacy laws, suffered minor injuries after also being swept from the deck of the nuclear-powered submarine.

Tuesday, a British police official said Higgins and Holtz were tethered close to the submarine while the two surviving sailors were either not connected by safety ropes or had lines long enough that allowed them to float away from the vessel.

It is standard practice to have topside sailors both tethered to the submarine as well as wearing safety vests, said Lt. Cmdr. Chris Loundermon, a spokesman for Commander, Submarine Force, in Norfolk, Va.

When a submarine pulls in or out of a port, a certain number of sailors must be topside to perform what the Navy calls “maneuvering watch,” and includes jobs such as reeling in lines, securing a tugboat, or transferring a pilot, the sailor responsible for guiding in the vessel, Loundermon said. On a surface ship, a similar procedure is called “sea and anchor detail.”

The process and the number of sailors required to do the job can vary, depending on factors such as sea and weather conditions, a familiarity with a port, or threat conditions, he said.

In the case of the Minneapolis-St. Paul, the four U.S. sailors were washed off the sub while the British harbor pilot was being transferred from the Los Angeles-class submarine to a British Ministry of Defence escort vessel, according to Devon and Cornwall Sgt. Detective Richard Bailey.

Brown said it’s standard practice to use a harness and a locking device — much like a mountain-climbing carabiner — to secure sailors to the deck of ships during such a transfer to allow for a safe level of freedom of motion.

The London-based editor said sailors attached to ships and subs by safety lines often fall from the vessels and are safely recovered.

“Slips, trips and blunders are the bread and butter of health and safety problems at sea,” Brown said. “If the two gentlemen had not died, we would probably not have heard a word of it.”

Brown said he has not heard of any similar accident in the past five to six years, but that the risk of being swept from the deck has always been a pitfall of submarine service.

“I’m sure this kind of thing has happened on submarines if you go back far enough,” he said.

The U.S. Navy has assigned a captain from Sub Group 8 to convene an administrative investigation while the MOD is conducting a separate probe into the fatal accident.

Higgins’ sister, Judith Higgins Scheffler, told The Paducah Sun in Kentucky that Higgins was dedicated to the Navy and loved his job.

Family members wanted Higgins to retire after 20 years in the military, but the 2001 terrorist attacks prompted him to stay.

Higgins enlisted in the Navy at age 20. He lived in Norfolk with his wife, Tina Higgins, and 16-year-old son, Christopher.

Scheffler said Higgins was smart, humble and sweet — and always carried a smile on his face. Higgins enjoyed taking care of the sailors on the submarine, Scheffler said.

###
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Postby DavieTait » Fri Jan 19, 2007 4:30 pm

The Subs CO has been reprimanded over this incident Click Here for the story on BBC News Online

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Postby U-5075 » Sat Jan 20, 2007 3:49 pm

Navy relieves submarine commander after deaths of 2 sailors

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Navy has reassigned the commander of a nuclear submarine involved in an accident that killed two sailors, including one from Ohio.

The Navy says Commander Edwin Ruff has been given a shore-based post in Norfolk, Virginia.

Earlier this week, he and another officer received a letter of reprimand.

Four American sailors were swept from the submarine's deck by surging waves off the coast of southwestern England on December 29th.

The two killed included 30-year-old Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Holtz of Lakewood.

According to officials, an initial review determined the accident was avoidable and due in part to a poor decision by the commander.

A formal investigation is still under way.
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