Three South African navy personnel have died and a senior officer is fighting for life after a submarine crew was swept off deck by large waves near Cape Town.
Seven crew members on the SAS Manthatisi were swept off the vessel’s deck as a military helicopter was attempting to drop supplies down to the submarine on the ocean surface on Wednesday.
South Africa’s Department of Defence said that all crew members were rescued, but three were pronounced dead.
A crew member who was sent from the Air Force Lynx helicopter to help the submarine crew was also rescued and is in hospital alongside the four surviving submariners.
The National Sea Rescue Institute and other emergency services were called in to help with the rescue, the Department of Defence said.
There will be an inquiry into the failed operation and the resulting deaths, the department added.
The South African National Defence Force, which comprises all the armed forces, said a female officer with the rank of lieutenant commander was among the three who died.
Cape Town and other areas on South Africa‘s south coast have been hit by extremely rough seas since last weekend, caused by a phenomenon known as “spring tide”.
South African armed forces analyst Dean Wingrin told the defenceWeb website that the submarine was moving to the Cape Town waterfront for a three-day navy exhibition starting on Saturday.
The navy has planned the exhibition to mark South Africa‘s Heritage Day national holiday on Sunday.
The SAS Manthatisi is one of three German-built Type 209/1400 Heroine-class submarines in the South African navy fleet and had returned to the water earlier this year after undergoing maintenance work.