Sunday, January 09, 2005

US nuclear submarine runs aground south Guam, crew seriously injured

US military planes and ships rushed to help the US
nuclear submarine San Francisco after it ran aground in
the Pacific injuring about 20 crew, one seriously, the
US Navy said.

The vessel's nuclear plant was not damaged in the
accident which happened while the San Francisco was
conducting underwater operations 560 kilometers (350
miles) south of its base at Guam, the Navy said.

The submarine was heading back to base under its own
steam but on the surface on Saturday.

The Los Angeles class submarine, which has a crew of
137, was heading for a port visit in Brisbane, Australia
when the accident happened on Friday.

A Pacific fleet spokeswoman said about 20 crew were
injured, and one was reported in critical condition.

The injured were being treated on board by medics with
special emergency training, the spokeswoman said.

But the submarine was still out of helicopter range to
allow to evacuation of the sailor with the most serious
injuries, Pacific Fleet spokesman Master Chief John

"We are sending air and sea units out to meet the ship
to bring in extra medical help," he pointed out. "We are
still working trying to get the right assets out there
to help those guys."

A Navy statement said the submarine was on the surface
and making best speed back to their homeport in Guam.

"There were no reports of damage to the reactor plant,
which is operating normally," according to the document.

Officials said the hull of the vessel was intact.

The submarine was expected to arrive back in port on
Monday, but a full investigation into the accident has
already started, officials said.

Los Angeles class submarines are 110 meters (360 feet)
long and have one nuclear reactor and one shaft,
according to US Navy data.

The USS San Francisco is one of three submarines of the
class to be based in Guam. It has been there since 2002.
It can carry out intelligence gathering and take special
forces on missions. Its strike arms usually include
Tomahawk missiles.

The incident occurred at 0200 GMT Saturday (12 noon in
Guam), the statement said.

The US Navy insists its submarines have an excellent
safety record.

In 2001, the USS Greeneville (news - web sites) collided
with a Japanese fishing boat off Hawaii, killing nine
Japanese boys and men. The commander was later
reprimanded and had to retire.

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