Ar­gentina finds but can’t re­trieve doomed sub

Miami Herald (Sunday) - - Americas | Deaths - As­so­ci­ated Press

BUENOS AIRES

Hours af­ter an­nounc­ing the dis­cov­ery of an Ar­gen­tine sub­ma­rine lost deep in the At­lantic a year ago with 44 crew mem­bers aboard, the govern­ment said Satur­day that it is un­able to re­cover the ves­sel, draw­ing anger from miss­ing sailors’ rel­a­tives who de­manded that it be raised.

De­fense Min­is­ter Os­car Aguad said at a press con­fer­ence that the coun­try lacks “mod­ern tech­nol­ogy” ca­pa­ble of “ver­i­fy­ing the seabed” to ex­tract the ARA San Juan, which was found 2,975 feet deep in wa­ters off the Valdes Penin­sula in Ar­gen­tine Patag­o­nia.

Ear­lier in the morn­ing, the navy said a “pos­i­tive iden­ti­fi­ca­tion” had been made by a re­mote-op­er­ated sub­mersible from the Amer­i­can com­pany Ocean In­fin­ity. The com­pany, com­mis­sioned by the Ar­gen­tine govern­ment, be­gan search­ing for the miss­ing ves­sel Sept. 7.

It re­mained un­clear what the next steps could be.

In a state­ment to The As­so­ci­ated Press, Ocean In­fin­ity CEO Oliver Plun­kett said au­thor­i­ties would have to de­ter­mine how to ad­vance. “We would be pleased to as­sist with a re­cov­ery op­er­a­tion but at the mo­ment are fo­cused on com­plet­ing imag­ing of the de­bris field,” he said.

Navy com­man­der Jose Luis Vil­lan urged “pru­dence,” say­ing that a fed­eral judge was over­see­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion and would be the one to de­cide whether it was pos­si­ble to re­cover a part or the en­tirety of the ship.

Rel­a­tives of crew mem­bers were de­ter­mined to fight for the sub­ma­rine to be quickly sur­faced.

Is­abel Polo, sis­ter of crew­man Daniel Ale­jan­dro Polo, told the AP that the dis­cov­ery was just the be­gin­ning.

She said fam­i­lies need to re­cover the re­mains of their loved ones to know what hap­pened and help pre­vent sim­i­lar tragedies.

“We do know they can get it out be­cause Ocean In­fin­ity told us they can, that they have equip­ment,” said Luis An­to­nio Niz, fa­ther of crew mem­ber Luis Niz. “If they sent him off, I want them to bring him back to me.”

The sub’s dis­cov­ery was an­nounced just two days af­ter fam­i­lies of the miss­ing sailors held a one-year com­mem­o­ra­tion for its dis­ap­pear­ance on Nov. 15, 2017. The San Juan was re­turn­ing to its base in the coastal city of Mar del Plata when con­tact was lost.

On the an­niver­sary Thurs­day, Pres­i­dent Mauri­cio Macri said the fam­i­lies of the sub­mariners should not feel alone and de­liv­ered an “ab­so­lute and non-ne­go­tiable com­mit­ment” to find “the truth.”

On Satur­day, Aguad said that the ves­sel was found to be in an area that in­ves­ti­ga­tors had deemed “most likely.”

Of­fi­cials showed im­ages of the sub­ma­rine, which was lo­cated on a seabed with its hull to­tally de­formed. Parts of its pro­pel­lers were buried and de­bris was scat­tered up to 230 feet away.

The Ger­man-built diese­l­elec­tric TR-1700 class sub­ma­rine was com­mis­sioned in the mid-1980s and was most re­cently re­fit­ted be­tween 2008 and 2014. Dur­ing the $12 mil­lion retrofitting, the ves­sel was cut in half and had its en­gines and bat­ter­ies re­placed. Ex­perts said re­fits can be dif­fi­cult be­cause they in­volve in­te­grat­ing sys­tems pro­duced by dif­fer­ent man­u­fac­tur­ers, and even the tini­est mis­take dur­ing the cut­ting phase can put the safety of the ship and crew at risk.

The navy said pre­vi­ously the cap­tain re­ported on

Nov. 15, 2017, that wa­ter en­tered the snorkel and caused one of the sub’s bat­ter­ies to short-cir­cuit.

The cap­tain later com­mu­ni­cated that it had been con­tained.

Some hours later, an ex­plo­sion was de­tected near

FED­ERICO COSSO AP

Rel­a­tives of the crew of the ARA San Juan sub­ma­rine em­brace out­side the navy base in Mar del Plata, Ar­gentina, a year af­ter it dis­ap­peared with 44 crew mem­bers aboard.

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