Sub commander stripped of command after underwater crash

Inquiry also blames inadequate submarine training and experience

HMCS Corner Brook is tied alongside a jetty at CFB Esquimalt in this 2011 file image.

A team of Canadian military investigators is blaming the captain of HMCS ******Corner Brook for crashing the submerged submarine off the west coast of Vancouver Island in June.

The board of inquiry is also pointing a finger at inadequate training and experience as factors that led to the collision, and has identified 19 inadequacies in Canada’s submarine training and navigational practices.

The team found that the sub was working fine and that human error led to it striking a channel wall during prospective-commander training in Nootka Sound on June 4. 

Despite the incident, confidence in Canada’s submarine program remains strong.

“You provide the best training you can. There is always human factors on the day and stress, and unfortunately that can lead to incidents like this,” said navy Capt. Luc Cassivi, deputy commander of the West Coast fleet of ships and submarines.

Similar incidents have happened with Canada’s previous Oberon class of submarines, he added.

The board of inquiry found that navigational mistakes were made aboard HMCS ****Corner Brook, which ended up southeast of where it should have been at the time of the collision.

The inquiry also found that some of the crew lacked in depth knowledge about new navigational systems that were installed in the sub within the past year. It turns out the instructional manuals hadn’t been updated.

“So that was one of the lessons learned,” said Cassivi.

In this case, one of Sutherland’s students was taking a turn planning out an operation, which ultimately went wrong, said Cassivi, adding that it is the commander’s job to take the wheel when poor decisions are made.

There are also added dangers of operating a submarine in Nootka Sound, though it is an ideal environment for commanders-in-training to “push the envelope,” said Cassivi. “It is an area that has currents (and) is quite narrow for dived operations.”

Lt.-Cmdr. Paul Sutherland was stripped of his command on Thursday, Cassivi said, adding that no other military personnel will be reprimanded at this time.

Sutherland will work from shore under Cassivi in the submarine program at Canadian fleet headquarters at CFB Esquimalt,.

He will likely never command another submarine, Cassivi said, adding that Sutherland is still considered a valuable asset.

“He has a lot of experience. He’s a good officer despite what happened and he has a lot to contribute to the submarine service.”

The navy plans to implement all of the board’s 19 recommendations to improve Canada’s submarine training and navigation practices. HMCS *****Victoria’s crew will also receive this updated training before they conduct dives in the new year, Cassivi said.

HMCS Corner Brook is beginning a long maintenance period, and is not expected to return to sea until 2016.

Victoria will return to duty in 2012, and work on HMCS Windsor and HMCS Chicoutimi at Victoria Shipyards in Esquimalt will wrap up in 2013.

 

emccracken@vicnews.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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