Computer glitch caused Russian nuke sub accident: Experts

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Moscow, Nov 19 (UNI) The tragic deaths of 20 people onboard the Russian Nerpa attack nuclear submarine were caused by a computer glitch, not by a crew member, Russian daily Komsomolskaya Pravda reported today.

''We submariners are unanimous that a computer programme failed.

Previously, the submarine fire suppression system had always started manually on the commander's orders. Now it is launched electronically,'' Mr Ensign Yevgeny Ovsyannikov, a technical specialist on the Nerpa, told the prestigious daily.

Mr Ovsyannikov said it was the first time this computerised system had been used on the submarine during the sea trials and that the computer had malfunctioned during tests in the dock.

An expert, who requested anonymity, suggested that a toxic form of Freon could have been used in the fire suppression system.

''A toxic additive, trichlorotrifluoroethane (C2F3Cl3), was used.

It is cheaper than pure Freon. Possibly, they simply wanted to economise,'' he said.

He added that there were unmistakable signs of poisoning, which could not have been caused by Freon.

''People were collapsing as though they had been shot,'' he said.

Breathing Freon is generally safe, but if the concentration in the air is high then it can result to suffocation.

He said 46 people had been hospitalised, not 21 as officially announced.

The accident onboard the Nerpa occurred on November 8 when the ship was undergoing sea trials in the Sea of Japan. Three submariners and 17 shipyard workers died in the accident.

It was previously reported that the deaths were caused by a crew member activating the fire safety system without permission or by the wrong data being entered into the temperature sensor.

Submariner Dmitry Grobov is suspected of having entered the wrong temperature data for the submarine's living quarters, which caused the fire suppression system to release the Freon gas.

UNI XC SKB BD1635

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