If no one died, it would not be considered as an accident
Russian nuclear submarine K-159 sank in the Barents Sea. The tragedy took place at 4 a.m. three miles north-west of Kildin Island, as the cruiser was being towed to a scrapyard. The submarine sank at the depth of 170 meters. Members of the towing crew were killed, one submariner - Maksim Tsibulsky - managed to stay alive.
According to the information from KSF.Ru online news agency, the temperature of the water on the site of the accident is ten degrees above zero. A human being can stay safe for ten minutes in such cold water without protective gear, the maximum is 45 minutes. There is practically no hope to save anyone else of the crew. The number of victims reportedly counts nine men.
K-159 nuclear-powered submarine (project 627A, Kit (Whale), "November" on NATO’s classification, class SSN) was built in 1962. The nuclear fuel from the reactor's active zone was unloaded 15 years ago, the sub was removed from the Russian Naval arsenal on July 16th 1989. The towing of the submarine to SRZ-10 factory (to be dismantled there) started on August 28th 2003. The sub was being towed on four pontoons from its base in the town of Gremikha. The pontoons were torn off by the fierce storm on August 29th overnight. "The submarine lost steadiness and sank," a spokesman for the Russian Defense ministry said.
There were ten crewmembers on board the submarine. One of them was saved, two dead bodies were found, according to the latest information. Rescue works are continuing. Russian Naval Commander Vladimir Kuroyedov left for the headquarters of the Northern Navy. Vessels the Pamir and the Altay, An-26 and Il-38 aircraft are conducting the rescue works.
Several high-ranking officials have already commented on the accident. "There is no need to raise the submarine urgently, because the active zone of the nuclear reactor was unloaded," Naval Admiral Vladimir Chernavin stated. The submarine did not carry nuclear weapons aboard, the nuclear reactor is safe. Most likely, the submarine will remain on the sea bottom, because the sub is useless and it does not pose an environmental danger. In fact, it was the metal scrap that sank, and the state will not have to pay to dismantle it.
Project 627A is the project of the very first domestic nuclear-powered submarines. If no one died, it would not be even considered as an accident. Even if crewmembers managed to jump overboard, they would not be able to stay alive for long in the freezing and storming water of the Barents Sea. K-159 is the first sunken submarine of the mentioned project.
The fate of another nuclear Soviet submarine of the same project, K-8, was dramatic as well. According to the information from Arkhangelsk-based NOMKA news agency, the first breakdown on board the submarine took place in October of 1960, when the leaking reactor radiated 13 crewmembers. K-8 sank on April 12th 1970, during a large-scale military exercise. The vessel was not prepared to participate in the exercise. A fire broke out on board the sub, the electric power was lost, but the cruiser surfaced. Diesel generators were out of order, it was impossible to use them. The crew was doing its best to save the submarine, but the efforts failed. The cruiser sank at the depth of 4,680 meters, 52 members of the crew were killed, others were saved. All 627A project submarines were removed from the naval arsenal in 1989-1992.