Names of officials who died in SA Navy submarine disaster released

Thursday, September 21, 2023

The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) has named the officials who lost their lives on Wednesday in a navy vessel incident off Kommetjie, near Cape Town. 

The SANDF identified the submariners as Lieutenant Commander Gillian Elizabeth Hector, Master Warrant Officer William Masela Mathipa and Warrant Officer Mmokwapa Lucas Mojela.

The three submariners died when a high wave swept seven crew members out of the sea. 

According to the SANDF, the SA Navy submarine was en route to Cape Town while conducting a vertical replenishment submarine by means of a SA Air Force Maritime Lynx helicopter when the incident occurred.

“A distress call was made to Cape Town Radio ,who were then dispatched to the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) from Kommetjie. 

“All seven members were recovered but sadly there were three fatalities, with one senior official in critical condition,” the SANDF said.

The remaining members, including the surface swimmer, are currently being treated in hospital. 

According to the NSRI, the SANDF, SA Air Force, SA Navy, military medical personnel and military police responded, while SA Navy vessels in the area replied to the call as well.

“Two NSRI Kommetjie rescue craft arrived on the scene, one nautical mile off-shore of Slangkop Lighthouse, where three male casualties were rescued onto one NSRI rescue craft and four male casualties were rescued onto one NSRI rescue craft.

“CPR [cardiopulmonary resuscitation] efforts were initiated on two of the men and once ashore at the Kommetjie slipway, CPR was continued on both men by paramedics who, after all CPR efforts were exhausted, sadly they were both declared deceased.” 

The NSRI said one SA Navy officer remained on board the naval vessel and in a coordinated operation, where the adult female was extricated from the vessel and CPR efforts were commenced.

“NSRI Hout Bay dispatched a NSRI rescue craft and crew to assist at the Navy vessel. 
Sadly, despite extensive CPR efforts, the female officer was declared deceased.” 

An inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the incident will be convened in due.

Meanwhile, the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans and her Deputy, Chief of the SANDF, Chief of the SA Navy and Flag Officer Fleet have since extended their sincere condolences to the family members of the deceased. 

“The SANDF further extends its sincere thanks and appreciation to the emergency services who assisted in the recovery of the stricken submarines.” 

According to the SA Navy, the bereaved families have requested privacy during this difficult time and have asked media and the public to respect their wishes. –