Three submarine crew members airlifted to hospital

THREE crew members of the crippled secondhand Canadian submarine drifting towards the Co Mayo coastline were airlifted to Sligo General Hospital last night.

One of the men was said to be in a critical condition following the fire which broke out on board the vessel on Tuesday as the former British navy diesel-powered sub was being sailed from Scotland to Halifax in Nova Scotia.

A spokeswoman for the hospital last night said: “The three men landed on the helicopter deck at the hospital almost an hour ago and were rushed in - one of them is in a critical conditions and the other two walked in. Doctors are seeing them just now.”

Irish air/sea rescue crews were on standby last night amid reports the skipper and crew of the HMCS Chicoutimi were preparing to abandon ship.

A naval vessel that responded to the mayday call was forced to return to Haulbowline after being hit by a freak wave.

The LE Róisín had to abandon its efforts to assist the HMCS Chicoutimi after it sustained damage to its hull.

A Navy spokesman said: “The naval ship suffered significant damage in heavy weather conditions. On completion of temporary repairs the ship will return to the Haulbowline.”

During last Saturday’s renaming ceremony in Faslane, Scotland, Canada’s Minister of National Defence Bill Graham said: “HMCS Chicoutimi’s handover to the Canadian Forces illustrates the progress we are making in establishing a modern submarine fleet that will serve Canadians extremely well for the next 25 years.”

The broken sub is the last of four Victoria Class submarines purchased at a cost of £244million from the British for Canada’s Navy under a deal agreed in 1998.

The submarine, with 57 crew on board, remained at the mercy of rough seas off the northwest coast of Mayo last night. The fire had knocked out its engines.

A British naval frigate and other Irish and British naval vessels were at the scene.

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