West News Wire: The Department of Defence reported on Thursday that three South African Navy soldiers had killed after seven submarine crew members were carried off their deck by large waves while a helicopter attempted a “vertical transfer” of supplies.
According to the government, the disaster occurred on Wednesday while an Air Force Lynx helicopter was performing a “vertrep” or vertical replenishment of supplies to the SAS Manthatisi submarine off the coast of Cape Town.
A rescue operation was immediately started after cancelling the operation.
All seven submariners were recovered, but three were pronounced dead and a senior officer is in critical condition. A crew member from the helicopter who was dispatched as a “surface swimmer” to assist in the rescue operation was also recovered and is in the hospital alongside the four surviving submariners.
The National Sea Rescue Institute and other emergency services were called in to help with the rescue, the Department of Defence said. There will be an inquiry into the failed operation and the resulting deaths, it said.
The South African National Defence Force, which comprises all the armed forces, said a female officer with the rank of lieutenant commander was among the three who died.
Cape Town and other areas on South Africa’s south coast have been hit by extremely rough seas since last weekend, caused by a phenomenon known as “spring tide”.