A military investigation continues after a Canadian submarine struck the ocean floor off the west coast of Vancouver Island.
The Canadian Forces launched a board of inquiry less than a week after HMCS Corner Brook, Canada’s only operational submarine before the accident, hit bottom on June 4 while on a 12-day advanced submarine officer training exercise. Lt.-Cmdr. Paul Sutherland took command of the vessel in May.
Since June 10, the investigation team is taking witness testimony and reviewing evidence to determine what led to the collision and who, if anyone, may be at fault, said navy Lt. Heather McDonald, with public affairs at the Department of National Defence in Ottawa.
“After the investigation is completed, the results will be reviewed by the chain of command before any public release is considered,” McDonald said.
Boards of inquiry are called when there are serious or complex incidents involving the Canadian Forces or a military member.
At the time of the crash, two submariners received minor bruising in the collision. Sixty submariners were on board. They were receiving refresher training in anticipation of their boat achieving full operational status next spring.
Corner Brook was to continue operating at sea for another three weeks, but the board of inquiry began and the boat never returned to the water. Instead, a team of submariners and civilian defence workers began preparing the vessel for extended maintenance next year, said McDonald.
Pre-maintenance work on the sub will continue at CFB Esquimalt until it is moved to the federal government’s drydock across Esquimalt harbour next July, to “provide the Victoria-class submarine’s 200-plus systems with the deep maintenance required to allow the boat to operate for another six years, prior to entering another (maintenance period),” McDonald said, adding how long that process will take and how much it will cost isn’t known since the amount of work varies vessel to vessel.
Work on each sub must be individually negotiated within a larger 15-year contract of up to $1.5 billion that the Department of National Defence awarded to the Canadian Submarine Management Group in 2008. Victoria Shipyards is a subcontractor on the project.
“Given that submarines are among the most highly complex machines that exist, maintaining them is a very complex process,” McDonald said.