Accident leaves Canada without operational submarines

Two sailors injured in accident off Vancouver Island east coast

Canada’s only fully operational submarine hobbled back to CFB Esquimalt after hitting the ocean floor Saturday.

The accident means all four of Canada’s subs are not in any shape to sail: HMCS Victoria is back in the water but is undergoing extensive testing, HMCS Windsor is undergoing repair and maintenance in Halifax, and HMCS Chicoutimi, which suffered a fatal fire in 2004, is at VIctoria Shipyards.

Officers on board the HMCS Corner Brook, which was alone deep in the waters of Nootka Sound off the central east coast of Vancouver Island, were being put through their paces during advanced submarine officer training.

The 12-day exercise, scheduled to wrap up Friday, abruptly ended around noon last Saturday following the grounding.

“They brought it to the surface right away, did some safety checks and after discussions they started heading home,” said Gerry Pash, Canadian Navy spokesperson.

Two of the 60 sailors on board suffered minor bruising in the accident.

“It’s like being in a car and you don’t have your seat belt done up. It doesn’t take much to get bumped,” Pash explained.

Typically a sub carries up to 53 personnel, but HMCS Victoria personnel were on board for refresher training.

The boat arrived back at the base late Sunday night, and Monday morning navy divers entered the water to assess the damage to the sub’s hull, said Pash, adding that no diesel fuel leaked out and no water leaked into the vessel.

Still, an investigation will follow.

“That’s all going to part of the (military’s) Board of Inquiry,” Pash explained.

Corner Brook arrived from CFB Halifax in early May to help prepare Victoria personnel for their upcoming return to sea in the fall, before it was to begin an extensive maintenance period at Victoria Shipyards.

It’s too soon to tell if Corner Brook will begin that session earlier than planned because of the accident.

“An assessment will be made, decisions will be made as to whether the damage can be repaired,” Pash explained, adding that important questions now need answers: “Can she go back and do the training we wanted to do while she was still available to do it?”

emccracken@vicnews.com