Cost-cutting move discussed over submarine deaths

An oxygen generator which exploded killing two British nuclear submarine crewmen may have been recycled from a hazardous waste dump to cut costs.

An oxygen generator which exploded killing two British nuclear submarine crewmen may have been recycled from a hazardous waste dump to cut costs.

Operator mechanic Anthony Huntrod, 20, from Sunderland, died from multiple injuries while leading mechanic operator Paul McCann, 32, from Halesowen, West Midlands, was poisoned to death by carbon monoxide when the 3.3lb (1.5kg) device blew up on board HMS Tireless in 2007.

The men were involved in a wargames training exercise on board the hunter-killer class sub, which was sailing hundreds of feet under the arctic ice pack 170 miles north of Deadhorse, in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska.

They were trapped in a forward escape compartment when the Scog (Self Contained Oxygen Generator) exploded, buckling the hatch doors and preventing rescuers from reaching them.

Tireless, which had 130 crewmen on board, surfaced immediately, punching a hole through the pack ice for survivors to be airlifted to safety.

The Scog which exploded could have been taken from a supply of almost 1,000 oxygen candles found in a Hazardous Waste Store close to the Royal Naval port in Plymouth, the inquest heard.

Royal Navy engineer Chris Clark, a member of the armed forces Marine Environment Survivability and Habitability (MESH) project, was responsible for Scogs throughout the fleet.

He agreed to allow 20 tonnes of Scogs from the dump to be taken to the Royal Navy stores in Devonport, for use on submarines.

He told the inquest there was no record of where the Scogs were from or why they had been dumped.

Often different batches would get mixed up as they were moved on and off submarines, he said.

This made keeping track of exactly which Scogs were which very difficult.

Some of those recycled from the dump may have been from a faulty batch he had ordered be recalled, after a fault during the manufacturing process made them unsafe.

Just 90 of the 294 of these Scogs, made by Molecular Products Ltd, had been recovered.

Clark visited the dump on June 27 2006 after he was contacted by a Defra official who said there was almost £750,000 of recyclable Scogs in storage there. "The palettes were stacked cheek by jowl, there was no space between them. I had to walk across the top to inspect the Scogs," he told the inquest.

"I could see some that had been fired, with the cartridges still in place; some that evidently had been fired because they had residue on the caps; some that had not been fired because they still had their seals intact and some that were still sealed in boxes."

He said he made an engineering decision to bring the Scogs which had intact seals back into account. Jonathan Hough, for the coroner said: "Was there a significant financial motivation for getting these Scogs back into service?"

Clark said: "All civil servants are charged with getting value for money and therefore eliminating waste. What I saw was an indication we might be wasting money."

 

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