Stricken sub reaches land as crew grieve for comrade

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The Independent Online

The crew of a Canadian submarine which was left drifting in the Atlantic for five days after a fire broke out on board were finally back on dry land last night. But the relief of the 54-strong crew of HMCS Chicoutimi at their safe arrival at Faslane in Scotland was marred by their grief for Lieutenant Chris Saunders, 32.

Lt Saunders, who had two children, died from smoke inhalation after fire broke out on Tuesday, causing the 21-year-old submarine, which had just been bought from the Royal Navy, to partially lose power.

A second crew member nearly died when he was swept overboard as rescuers battled to attach a tow line to the submarine but was rescued by a Royal Navy diver.

Leading Diver Garth Spence, of the Northern Diving Group, based at Faslane, was among a team of divers who helped save the crew member.

He said: "A wave came over the front of the submarine and one of them was washed on to the port side. He was tethered to the casing using a safety harness which prevented him from floating clear and his feet became trapped under the casing. I had to get in and cut him free so I put my flippers on and jumped in.

"He said 'cut me free, I think I only have two breaths left'. I just sat down next to him and gave him a big hug and told him he was going to be all right.

"He was very panicky, he was scared. I was lucky to grab hold of him because the waves were knocking me about."

Vice Admiral Bruce MacLean of the Canadian navy said he was "absolutely convinced" the Chicoutimi had been fit for use when it sailed for Canada and said that an inquiry would be held into how the fire broke out.