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Archive for Thursday, November 9, 2000

Another note speaks from sub’s watery grave

November 9, 2000

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— Crew members aboard a crippled Russian nuclear submarine struggled against deadly carbon monoxide gas from a fire but feared they could not survive an attempt to reach the surface, one sailor wrote in the second note from the Kursk to be made public.

"We feel bad ... we're weakened by the effects of carbon monoxide from the fire ... the pressure is increasing in the compartment ... if we head for the surface we won't survive the compression," Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov read from the note on ORT government television Wednesday.

"We can't last more than a day," the note concluded, Klebanov said.

The note was found in the clothes of an unidentified submariner after his body was pulled from the vessel by deep-sea divers, said Klebanov, who read parts of the message after a meeting of the government commission investigating the Aug. 12 disaster.

The note was written around 1 p.m. that day, Klebanov said, about an hour and a half after the submarine was torn apart by explosions and sank to the bottom of the Barents Sea. All 118 aboard eventually died. Officials say most died immediately after the explosion.

Klebanov said he could not read the whole note, but would give the "sense" of it. He then read from a piece of paper and appeared to give at least some of the contents word for word. The note itself was not shown.

Like a message found earlier on the body of another sailor, the note said 23 survivors of the initial explosions had gathered in the 9th compartment, toward the rear of the vessel. The other note, written by Lt. Dmitry Kolesnikov, said sailors crowded into the pitch-black compartment after explosions in the submarine's nose sent it to the bottom of the sea.

Russian officials have said a collision is the most likely cause of the disaster, pointing to the presence of foreign military vessels in the Barents Sea during the military exercises in which the Kursk was partaking.

Both Britain and the United States had submarines in the Barents Sea, but deny their vessels were near the Kursk. Other observers have said the sinking most likely was caused by a torpedo exploding in a tube.

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