Submersible explodes at Jinhae Port, killing 3

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Submersible explodes at Jinhae Port, killing 3

A 70-ton submersible used to infiltrate North Korean waters blew up Tuesday at the Jinhae Naval Port in Changwon, South Gyeongsang, killing three people and injuring one.

The cause has not been fully determined but the Ministry of National Defense said it suppose it could have been a gas explosion.

Moon Sang-gyun, the ministry’s spokesman, said in a briefing that the vehicle was about 30 years old and past its operation period. Moon did not explain why it had not been retired.

The accident occurred after the submersible, named Pigeon, was anchored at the naval port at around 8:30 a.m. and officers in the Defense Intelligence Command went inside to inspect the equipment. Among the four, one was a senior chief petty officer who died immediately after the explosion. A master chief petty officer fell into the sea and went missing for hours, before he was found at 2:18 p.m. near the port. A lieutenant junior grade died on his way to the hospital.

A lieutenant is undergoing medical treatment at a hospital for shoulder bone fractures. Spokesman Moon said the injury is not life-threatening.
The Pigeon can travel at a maximum speed of 8.8 knots (15.6 kilometers per hour), 150 meters (492 feet) underwater. In the 1970s through the 1980s, the vehicle was mainly used by South Korean spies who infiltrated North Korean territory and conducted special assignments, including reconnaissance missions.


BY PARK SEONG-HUN [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]

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