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Two die in nuclear submarine tragedy; BRITAIN.

Byline: By CHRIS GREENWOOD

TWO British sailors were killed yesterday in an accident aboard the nuclear submarine HMS Tireless.

The accident happened while the submarine was submerged under the Arctic icecap during a joint British-American exercise, a spokesman said.

A piece of air-purification equipment in the forward section of the submarine was thought to be responsible for the accident, he added.

The accident happened on board the Trafalgar class nuclear submarine at 4.20am yesterday.

The forward compartment was damaged, and the crew were forced to surface quickly through the ice.

A third submariner was also injured and was airlifted to a US military hospital. His injuries are not life-threatening, the MoD said.

The nuclear reactor of HMS Tireless was unaffected and the ship itself was not in danger, a spokesman added.

HMS Tireless is a hunter-killer submarine and does not carry nuclear missiles.

The families of both dead sailors have been told.

An MoD spokesman said the piece of equipment which malfunctioned was fitted to all Trafalgar class submarines.

He said its use on other boats had been restricted until safety checks could be carried out.

The equipment had not failed before and had a 100% safety record, he added. It was not essential to the safe running of the submarine.

HMS Tireless was launched in 1985. The piece of air-purification machinery thought to have failed was fitted as part of an update in 2001.

Admiral Sir James Burnell-Nugent offered his sympathy to the families of the two men who died, and paid tribute to the crew of HMS Tireless.

He said: "I very much regret that this incident has occurred and my thoughts go out to the family and friends of the men who have lost their lives.

"I also wish to pay tribute to the crew of HMS Tireless that this incident has been dealt with and contained so professionally."

HMS Tireless, based in Devonport, Plymouth, is 23 years old and has had her fair share of problems in the past.

In2000, all Britain's hunter-killer nuclear submarines were given intensive inspections following the discovery of a fault on board Tireless.

The vessel had limped into Gibraltar in May of that year with a leak in pipework leading from the nuclear reactor system.

Then in 2003 she suffered minor damage to her ballast tank during a collision with an object while submerged.

The submarine is the third of seven Trafalgar Class SSN submarines in the Royal Navy, and usually carries of crew of 130.

All Trafalgar class submarines are armed with five tubes capable of firing Tomahawk missiles.

Tireless's commanding officer is Iain Breckenridge, who joined the Royal Navy as a midshipman in September 1984.

welshnews@dailypost.co.uk

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Two people died aboard HMS Tireless under the Arctic icecap
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Mar 22, 2007
Words:463
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