Blaze sub sister vessels suspended from service

Canada has suspended three of its former Royal Navy submarines from service after last week's fatal blaze on a fourth vessel.

Canada has suspended three of its former Royal Navy submarines from service after last week's fatal blaze on a fourth vessel.

The country's defence ministry said it was confining the subs to port until the cause of the fire was identified.

Lieutenant Chris Saunders, 32, died in hospital after suffering from the effects of smoke inhalation when two fires ripped through the Chicoutimi which was on its first voyage on Canadian service.

The vessel, which was left drifting in the Atlantic after the fires broke out, made its way into Faslane with the Canadian flag at half mast on Sunday afternoon after a rescue operation involving British, American and Irish forces.

She was among four former Royal Navy subs sold to the Canadian navy in 1998, but remained in British hands while BAE Systems prepared her for her return into service.

In a statement, Chief of Maritime Staff Vice-Admiral Bruce Maclean said: "It would be prudent to keep all submarines alongside until more analysis can be done on the possible causes of the fire."

Commodore Dan Murphy, president of a board of inquiry into the incident, yesterday revealed that two blazes started in separate areas of the vessel, about 50ft apart.

His statement came a day after Canada's defence minister Bill Graham said the country could not rule out suing the British Government amid allegations the Chicoutimi was used for parts for the three other Victoria-class vessels.

The investigation will look at whether the Chicoutimi was structurally, mechanically and technically sound and whether its reactivation contributed to the cause of the fires.

Crewmen of the submarine will today say a final farewell to their comrade who lost his life after the blaze.

The 54-strong crew will attend a memorial service for Lt Saunders, a father of two young sons, on the banks of the River Clyde, near where the battered submarine is berthed.

They will pay tribute to their shipmate, who joined the crew just a fortnight before it embarked on its maiden voyage under the Canadian flag.

The memorial service will take place at 3pm at Rhu church, not far from HM Naval Base Clyde at Faslane, near Glasgow, where investigators are examining the fire-ravaged vessel.

The service will take place at the same time as the sailor's funeral in Canada.

The lieutenant's family and friends will attend the ceremony near Halifax, Nova Scotia, at about midday.

Captain Paul Doucette - who is in Glasgow with the submariners as they undergo medical tests and are interviewed under a Canadian naval investigation into the tragedy - said: "Lieutenant Saunders' funeral is taking place in Canada at around midday, which would be 4pm here, so the two services will take place around the same time."

The sailor was among three casualties airlifted off the stricken submarine and taken to Sligo General Hospital in the Republic of Ireland, after suffering from smoke inhalation.

Petty Officer Denis Lafleur has since been discharged, while Master Seaman Archibald MacMaster, who was in a critical condition at one stage, was expected to leave soon.

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