Canadian sailor dies in submarine accident

One of the Canadian sailors injured in the fire on-board HMCS Chicoutimi has died.

Prime Minister Paul Martin has confirmed in the House of Commons that one crew member on the disabled sub HMCS Chicoutimi has died.

A British helicopter took three sailors to an Irish hospital after airlifting them from the Canadian submarine that is drifting without power in the Atlantic off Ireland.

Several crewmen were injured in the fire. Martin said a Lieut. Chris Saunders died while being transferred.

The Royal Navy helicopter took the men to a hospital in Sligo, in the Republic of Ireland, after the condition of one of the HMCS Chicoutimi crew members worsened during the airlift operation. The helicopter's pilot had originally intended to land in Londonderry, Northern Ireland.

Commander Richard Buckland of the Royal Navy said he didn't know the extent of the submariners' injuries.

Nine crew members were said to have suffered "minor" smoke inhalation as they put out two fires on board the vessel on Tuesday.

The latest development came after the Canadian Navy earlier said the 57 sailors aboard HMCS Chicoutimi might not see dry land again until Monday.

Commodore Tyrone Pile, Commander of the Canadian Fleet Atlantic, told a news conference Wednesday that it's unlikely the Chicoutimi will regain propulsion power, because damage from a fire on board Tuesday was worse than first thought.

He said the fire on board had been "major," causing "extensive damage to cabling" aboard.

Pile's remarks represented a reversal in the Navy's assessment of the damage to Canada's newest submarine.

The cause of the fire was still unknown, Pile said. However, it burned on both the first and the second deck, badly damaging Captain Luc Pelletier's cabin and the electrical equipment room.

The crew used up most of the portable fire-fighting equipment on board in putting out the blazes.

Pile also said that there had been a second, "minor" fire in an oxygen generator on board, shortly after the first one had been put out.

The Royal Navy frigate HMS Montrose and the auxiliary vessel Wave Knight reached HMCS Chicoutimi at about 2 p.m. local time Wednesday.

Three other ships from a Royal Navy taskforce of five vessels were due to reach the Canadian sub in the next 24 hours, but towing operations probably wouldn't begin until Friday, Pile said.

HMCS Chicoutimi will probably be towed back to a British naval base in Faslane, Scotland, from which it departed for Halifax on Saturday.

Overall, the boat's "situation continues to be stable," Pile said.

Pile said the temperature aboard was 20 degrees Celsius, "warmer than I would have thought."

The starboard diesel engine was running, providing the submarine with ventilation and a battery was powering light and communications, and there was also "plenty of food and water on board," he added.

Back in Canada, the Navy briefed all of the submariners' families on Tuesday and will provide them with another update on Wednesday, Pile added.

A technical team from Halifax was due to arrive in Britain early Thursday morning.

Separately, Pile reported that HMCS Windsor, a submarine patrolling Canada's East Coast, had suffered a "minor incident" on Tuesday.

A sailor "clearing fishing lines" was washed overboard, he said. The man was rescued by a swimmer, and both immediately returned to duty unharmed, the Commodore said.

The Chicoutimi, bought from Britain's Royal Navy, was renamed and formally handed over to the Canadian Navy during a ceremony at Faslane on Saturday. The vessel had been due to arrive in Halifax on Oct. 18.