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Two UK Sailors Killed, One Injured in Arctic Submarine Explosion


Two British sailors died Wednesday in an explosion aboard a British submarine under the Arctic ice cap. A third sailor was injured, and he was transported from a break in the ice north of Alaska to a U.S. military hospital for treatment. VOA's Al Pessin reports from the Pentagon.

It was shortly after midnight in the cold, dark waters of the Arctic when an oxygen generator on HMS Tireless exploded. The ship's crew quickly found a hole in the ice cap and surfaced to vent the smoke. When the incident was over, two crewmembers were dead and one was injured.

The Tireless was participating in an exercise with U.S. naval forces, and it called for help. A joint U.S.-British camp on a floating ice sheet in the Arctic Ocean responded. A spokesman for the U.S. submarine fleet, Phil McGuinn, picks up the story.

"The ice camp coordinated a helicopter that had been supporting the ice camp to go to the Tireless on the surface, loaded the injured sailor there, flew to Deadhorse, Alaska - the nearest aircraft landing facility for large aircraft - and there transferred to the Alaska Air National Guard C-130 (transport aircraft) for further transport," he said.

A doctor from the ice camp accompanied the injured seaman.

Royal Navy spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Andy Price says the man's injuries were not serious, but there was concern he could have damage from smoke inhalation that was not immediately apparent. Price says it took about eight hours to call in the aircraft and fly the 13-hundred kilometers to a U.S. military hospital in Alaska's largest city, Anchorage.

He says there was no serious damage to the submarine. "She has some superficial damage to one of her forward compartments. But she, operationally, is sound. She's capable. She'll be diving very shortly to check out all her equipment and to move away from the specific hole in the ice she's in," he said.

Lieutenant Colonel Price says the Royal Navy will decide after the tests whether HMS Tireless will remain part of the exercise, which is scheduled to continue until March 30.

He says the bodies of the two dead seamen were also removed from the submarine, and are being transported home.