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Relatives of Argentina Sub Crew Want Probe of Disappearance

  • Associated Press

Relatives and friends of Alejandro Tagliaprieta, a crew member on the missing ARA San Juan submarine, embrace at the naval base where people hang flags and messages on the fence in Mar de Plata, Argentina, Nov. 24, 2017.

Some relatives of crew members on a missing Argentine submarine are asking to be plaintiffs in a judicial investigation of the disappearance, saying they want to ensure the case is fully studied.

Luis Tagliapietra said Thursday that he joined the case because he believes the navy has withheld information and lied to the families of crew members such as his son. He said seven other families have asked to join as plaintiffs.

The group wants judicial authorities to safeguard any evidence related to the voyage of the ARA San Juan, which hasn’t been seen or heard from since Nov. 15 despite an intensive multinational search in the South Atlantic. Hope for survivors has faded because experts say the 44 sailors had only enough oxygen to last up to 10 days if the sub remained submerged and undamaged.

“Until a bolt from the submarine appears, they could be anywhere, in any situation,” said Tagliapietra, the father of 27-year-old crewman Alejandro Tagliapietra.

“Of course, the days pass by and the anguish, fear and desperation rise. But in a way, I’m channeling all of this with this struggle, so that no matter what, we can find out the truth.”

The navy has said the vessel’s captain reported that water entered the snorkel and caused one of the submarine's batteries to short circuit. The captain later communicated by satellite phone that the problem had been contained, the navy says.

Navy spokesman Enrique Balbi walks away from the podium after taking part in a press conference at Navy headquarters in Buenos Aires, Nov. 29, 2017.
Navy spokesman Enrique Balbi walks away from the podium after taking part in a press conference at Navy headquarters in Buenos Aires, Nov. 29, 2017.

Some hours later, an explosion was detected near the time and place where the San Juan was last heard from. A navy spokesman said this week that the blast could have been triggered by a “concentration of hydrogen” caused by the battery problem reported by the captain.

Tagliapietra criticized the navy’s response and its release of information. He noted that for days, officials spoke about a communication problem and didn’t acknowledge the battery problem until after it was leaked to news media.

He said that when he found out about the explosion from his son’s direct superior, he was told there was a possibility no one survived.

“I asked if they were all dead, and he said: ‘Yes,’” Tagliapietra said.

The San Juan, a German-built diesel-electric TR-1700 class submarine, was commissioned in the 1980s and was most recently refitted in 2014. Some family members have also denounced the age and condition of the vessel. President Mauricio Macri has promised a full investigation.

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