Crew member caused fire on Russian nuclear submarine

November 13th, 2008 - 8:15 pm ICT by IANS  

Moscow, Nov 13 (RIA Novosti) The fire in the Russian nuclear submarine Nerpa Saturday killing 20 people on board was caused when a member of the crew activated without permission a fire safety system, investigators said Thursday.”Military investigators have identified the person who activated, without permission or any particular grounds, a fire safety system on board the submarine. He is a sailor from the crew, and he has already confessed,” Vladimir Markin, a spokesman for the investigation at the Prosecutor General’s Office said.

Criminal charges have already been brought against the crew member, and he faces up to seven years in jail.

The tragedy occurred late Saturday while the Nerpa was undergoing trials in the Sea of Japan. Three submariners and 17 shipyard workers died in the accident. There were 208 people, 81 of them submariners, on board the vessel at the time.

Investigators said the on board fire safety system that was thought to have malfunctioned was in order.

The submarine’s reactor was not affected by the fire, which occurred in the nose of the vessel, and the radiation levels on board remained normal.

The sub will resume sea trials after the conclusion of an investigation into the accident, a spokesperson for Russia’s Amur shipyard said Thursday.

The sea trials will continue after the investigation and certain technical adjustments. said Marina Radayeva.

The incident is the worst for in Russian naval history since the sinking of the Kursk nuclear submarine in 2000 when all 118 sailors died.

The construction of the Akula II class Nerpa nuclear attack submarine started in 1991, but was suspended for over a decade due to a lack of funding. Akula II class vessels are considered the quietest and deadliest of all Russian nuclear-powered attack submarines.

Based in the Russian Far Eastern city of Komsomolsk-on-Amur, the Amur Shipbuilding Plant has built 270 vessels, including the Nerpa and another 55 nuclear submarines since it was established in 1936.

The Nerpa started sea trials on Oct 27.

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