Argentina Calls Off Rescue Mission for Missing Submarine Crew

By James Burke

After a massive international search effort, the Argentinian navy has abandoned hope in finding any of the 44 crew members of a submarine alive. The submarine went missing on Nov. 15.

Navy spokesman Capt. Enrique Balbi told reporters Nov. 30 that the rescue mission had been “extended for more than twice what is estimated for a rescue,” reported AP.

“We’ve had 28 ships, nine aircraft, 4,000 people involved, 18 countries supporting,” Balbi told reporters. “Despite the magnitude of these efforts, we’ve been unable to find the submarine.”

The navy said that aircraft had flown around 557,000 nautical miles and ships had searched more than a million nautical miles during the search.

Balbi said added that search efforts to find the ARA San Juan will continue. The Argentinian vessel went missing in the South Atlantic after it left a naval base in southern Argentina on Nov. 13.

Hopes for another outcome and finding the crew had been low this week. If the lost German-built submarine remained intact under the sea, the crew only had sufficient oxygen to last 7 to 10 days.

Many had already given up hope in rescuing the submariners after learning that a suspected explosion – described as a “hydro-acoustic anomaly” – had been detected in the area where the ARA San Juan last communicated from.

The navy said ARA San Juan’s captain had reported water entering the submarine’s snorkel which resulted in the short circuiting of a battery. Several hours later, the captain communicated that the problem had been contained.

AP reported that some of the crew’s relatives broke into tears after learning of the navy’s announcement.

“I don’t understand this arbitrary and unjustified decision,” Luis Tagliapietra, the father of missing crew member Alejandro, 27, told local TV. “It’s unusually cruel. Every day, it’s a new blow. I’m destroyed,” he said.

Others made use of social media to remember those they have lost.

“I stay with this image,” Jesica Gopar, said in a tweet that included a photo of her husband, submarine officer Fernando Santilli, smiling and holding their young son in his arms.

“He’s the most beautiful being that God could have put on my path 13 years ago,” she wrote. “He’s a hero who must be recognized along with his 43 other crew members. I hope you didn’t suffer my love.”

Among the missing was 35-year-old Eliana Maria Krawczyk – Argentina’s first female submarine officer.

Last minute decisions resulted in two Argentinean submariners not joining their fellow crew members on their submarine.

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