Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Coast Guard must think it's safer. Navy thinks, "Why Not!"

NORFOLK - Sailors standing watch topside aboard Navy submarines are now required to wear life vests at all times following a drowning this summer at Norfolk Naval Station.

"The new life-jacket requirement comes despite the fact that Acosta apparently broke existing safety guidelines when he stepped off the nonslip surface of the submarine without first donning a flotation device, according to the report.

The 21-year-old sailor passed a Breathalyzer test and reviewed safety rules before assuming duty on a topside roving patrol that Saturday. Armed with an M16 rifle and a pistol, Acosta was walking along the rear of the sub when another sailor saw him step outside the safety ropes and off the boat's nonslip surface. A moment later, he fell from the stern.

The report noted that the Boise did not have complete safety lines installed at the time of the incident because of "a material deficiency."

Additionally, the investigator noted that having rescue divers assigned to the naval station's civilian emergency response team "would have been invaluable."

The investigation was conducted by Submarine Group 2 in Groton, Conn. and obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.

In a coincidence, Molten Eagle recently learned that Medevac teams on subs are also now required to wear safety head gear.

Something (submarine experience) tells M.E. the life vest decision is going to have unintended safety consequences.  Let's hope M.E. will be wrong.  If not, the unavailable safety line alone (a cited "material deficiency") may have saved the young sailor, who was seen stepping outside the safety ropes, off the boat's nonslip surface and subsequently slipping over the stern.  No disciplinary actions were recommended as a result of the accident.

Submarines are always silent and strange.

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