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Fatal sub fire study to be released


HALIFAX—Sailors who survived a devastating fire aboard the submarine HMCS Chicoutimi almost 15 years ago were expected to learn details today of a study into the long-term impact on their health.

The used British submarine, one of four purchased by the Canadian military in 1998, was on its maiden voyage to Canada on Oct. 5, 2004, when it caught fire in rough seas off the coast of Ireland.

A board of inquiry later determined that as the sub's conning tower was being repaired on the surface, a rogue wave pushed a torrent of seawater through two open hatches, partially flooding two compartments and causing an electrical short-circuit and fire.

Much of the sub was quickly engulfed in black smoke as the 55 crew members fought the blaze.

Navy Lt. Chris Saunders later died from smoke inhalation, and two other crew members were badly injured by the toxic fumes.

After the fire, many of the submariners spent an additional five days on the sub—working on equipment covered in grey soot—as the ship was towed to Scotland.

The navy conceded early in its investigation that the crew had been exposed to a nasty chemical cocktail, though it would take years of laboratory work to determine what was in the smoke.

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