USS Minneapolis-St. Paul Submarine Tragedy Avoidable Next Time?
A US Navy Submarines Forces Atlantic officials told 13News, "Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family members of the sailors who died today."
We honestly do not know yet the accompanying factors leading to the deaths of our two, unidentified brothers. Since the accident resulted in two deaths and the failure of two additional sailors to journey the Atlantic, we should expect three officers' careers to be adversely impacted by this event. The executive officer, the commanding officer and the officer of the deck are at automatic risk of admonishment, to say the least.
Small, inflatable dinghies operated by police escorts (due to security demands for U.S. subs) picked up the four, according to Officer Provan, spokesman for Devon and Cornwall police. NOTE: Since small dinghies operated well enough in waters rough to recover four submariners, it should be evident that deckhanding on submarines is akin to logrolling. A submarine on the surface is essentially a large log with a rudder that often loses steerage in rough conditions. This hazard has been well known to submariners for at least the last century.
Some questions immediately come to mind:
1) Submarines will usually submerge as soon as practicable for reasons of stealth, safety and mission. Why was the submarine not pre-rigged for dive at the relative safety of the dock? [Yes, valve and vent lineups, etc. can be down later, closer to actual dive time].
2) Submarine sailors over six feet tall have higher centers of gravity that potentially interefere with otherwise superb balance on rolling decks. How many of the sub's 4 deckhands who washed overboard were over six feet or taller? Were shorter deckhands spared? Shorter sailors make better deckhands due to their lower centers of gravity and natural balancing ability than taller males.
3) Were the four sailors involved in an unusual, mission-related activity? For instance, were they attempting to secure an unusual hull attachment? [This we will probably never learn].
Above thoughts are more than hypothetical. Certainly the sea state (47 mph gusts) beyond the safety of Plymouth harbor's large, concrete breakwater was known to someone on the submarine before its departure. Sean Brooks, a coast guard officer, had this description, "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."
The two survivors would probably not have been rescued as quickly had it not been for the police escort, said Officer Provan. Imagine that. The small, inflatable dinghy, not a tug or helicopter, saved the day!