CAPE TOWN, Sept. 21 (Xinhua) -- The South African Department of Defense has confirmed the deaths of three mariners Wednesday in an incident involving a Navy submarine just off the coast of Cape Town in the Western Cape province.
According to a statement issued Thursday by the Department of Defense, the incident occurred when "the SA Navy submarine SAS Manthatisi was en-route to Cape Town while conducting a vertical transfer (VERTREP) by means of an SA Air Force Maritime Lynx helicopter on the afternoon of Sept. 20 ... high waves swept seven crew members out to sea."
"The VERTREP evolution was immediately canceled, and efforts were launched to recover the members. A surface swimmer was dispatched from the helicopter to assist with the rescue. Unfortunately, the recovery operation was adversely affected by rough sea conditions," said the statement. "All seven members were recovered, but sadly, there were three fatalities, with one senior officer in critical condition. The remaining members, including the surface swimmer, are currently being treated in hospital."
The statement further indicated that an inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the incident would be convened in due course.
According to earlier reports, the submarine was en route to Table Bay from Simon's Town for the South African Navy Festival, scheduled to take place at the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront on Sept. 23-25.
A weather alert issued by the South African Weather Service had warned of "damaging waves" in the region Tuesday and Wednesday.