Was it Freon Fragging, Then?
UPDATE (19NOV2008) - Experts blame computer glitch for Russian nuclear sub deaths - RIA NOVOSTI:
UPDATE (14NOV2008) - It is difficult to justify locked cabin doors during submarine sea trials, but this AFP article makes 3 references to them. Here is just one:
We submariners are unanimous: a computer program failed. Previously, the submarine fire suppression system had always started manually on the commander's orders. Now it is launched electronically, Ensign Yevgeny Ovsyannikov, a technical specialist on the Nerpa, told Komsomolskaya Pravda. Ovsyannikov also added that it was the first time this computerized system had been used on the submarine during the sea trials and that the computer had malfunctioned during tests in the dock.
A toxic additive, trichlorotrifluoroethane [C2F3Cl3], was used. It is cheaper than pure Freon. Possibly, they simply wanted to economize, suggested an expert who requested anonymity, adding that there were unmistakable signs of poisoning, which could not have been caused by Freon: People were collapsing as though they had been shot
We had to smash down the doors of the cabins that had been locked. We took the lads out. Two breaths of freon and that's it. Some of them died on our way into the port. - Alexei Shanin, officer on board the submarine K-152 Nerpa.No kidding, let me be first to guess that the Russians had at least one female aboard. Only pure speculation, but my guess is at least one female probably a shipyard engineer had been aboard. Were you unaware of female shipyard workers? Nerpa (seal) is coincidental name of a Russian shipyard here:
5/18/98: WORKERS STRIKE Female workers from Nerpa's galvanization work-shop began a hunger strike on 14 May 1998. Workers from the transport workshop joined the strike, which has immobilized the shipyard. The Nerpa shipyard has not paid workers for eight months because the Ministry of Defense still owes more than 74 million rubles ($12 million) to Nerpa for repairs completed on nuclear sub-marines. [Vesti newscast, 18 May 1998; in "Russian TV Shows Striking Subyard," FBIS-UMA-98-139.] sourceRussian submarine Builders trials may soon become known by their more appropriate name - Blunder trials. Yes, the U.S. has had its share of blunders, too.
Twenty people, including 17 civilian shipyard workers, died when a hazardous fire suppressant (freon gas) was discharged during sea trials for Russia's Nerpa attack submarine.
Military deaths were limited to two officers and a warrant officer. Twenty-one people were also injured in the incident.
A submariner has already confessed he switched on the system without authorization, according to Vladimir Markin, a spokesman for the Investigation Committee of the Prosecutor General's Office.
An expert from the investigative commission said the probe must determine how the sailor managed to gain unauthorized access to the system.
Only senior commanding officers have access to the fire safety system. It is impossible to simply activate the system, which is protected from unauthorized activation by multiple levels of confirmation, the official said. We must find out how a person without authorization managed to activate the system and determine whether the same situation could occur again. source
The tragedy occurred late Saturday in the Sea of Japan.
Was it freon fragging (unsurprisingly, the suspect has given no reason for his unauthorized activation of the fire suppressant)?
No, it was not fragging. If found guilty, the unidentified sailor faces a sentence of only seven years imprisonment. Unless his sentence is upgraded, intentional murder has obviously been ruled out by the prosecutor.
The sailor's confession, which some believe was obtained under duress, conveniently absolves Russian engineers of a horrible design flaw, a problem which would easily jeopardize the higher package price Russia intends to charge India for Nerpa's timely lease.
If true, however, the charge would be a blot on Russia's method of screening, training and supervising submariners. What an indictment! Putin, who has been watching intently, must be fuming over this lastest submarine debacle.
Submarines are always silent and strange.