SA Navy submarine exercise was called off due to bad weather – expert

Three senior naval officers have died following a tragic incident near Kommetjie. Picture: Armand Hough / African News Agency (ANA)

The exercise undertaken by the SA Navy near Kommetjie that claimed the lives of senior ranking officials had been called off due to bad weather. This is according to defence expert Dean Wingrin.

Three senior ranking officers; Lieutenant Commander Gillian Elizabeth Hector (Executive Officer), Master Warrant Officer William Masela Mathipa (Coxswain) and Warrant Officer Class One Mmokwapa Lucas Mojela (Coxswain under training) died during the exercise.

He explained that there was a large swell running, in excess of three metres at the time of the training exercise, which was part of the SA National Defence Force’s upcoming ‘Mini’ Navy Festival at the V&A Waterfront between September 23 and 25 in support of the City of Cape Town’s Freedom of Entry Parade and Heritage Day celebrations.

Wingrin said from his understanding, the commander of the exercise reviewed the conditions and cancelled the exercise.

Speaking to Newzroom Afrika, he explained that the submarine was on its way from its base in Simon’s Town to the V&A Waterfront and used it as an opportunity to undergo various exercises with the crew during transit.

Wingrin said one of these exercises is a vertical transfer (VERTREP) which is done with a helicopter where members practise hoisting personnel or cargo from the deck of the submarine and vice versa, and is done regularly.

He said due to the cancellation of the exercise, there was no helicopter in the immediate facility when the incident unfolded.

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

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