Probe into sailors' deaths on submarine

LONDON (Reuters) - An investigation was underway on Thursday into the deaths of two British soldiers who were killed in an accident on a nuclear-powered submarine on exercise in the Arctic, the Ministry of Defence said.

Another submariner was also hurt in the accident on board HMS Tireless and he has been airlifted to a U.S. military hospital with his injuries described as not life-threatening.

The ministry said the nuclear reactor on board Tireless, a hunter-killer sub which does not carry nuclear weapons, was not affected. The submarine “quickly surfaced and is completely safe”, the MoD said in a statement.

Initial investigations indicated that the accident aboard the hunter-killer submarine involved a piece of air purification equipment in its forward section. It caused only superficial damage.

“I very much regret that this incident has occurred and my thoughts go out to the family and friends of the men who have lost their lives,” said Admiral Sir James Burnell-Nugent.

“I also wish to pay tribute to the crew of HMS Tireless that this incident has been dealt with and contained so professionally.”

Tireless was taking part in an Anglo-American exercise and was submerged under the ice cap at the time of the accident.

The sub was launched in 1985 but the air-purification system that is thought to have malfunctioned was fitted as part of an update in 2001.

All Trafalgar Class submarines are fitted with the same equipment, the MoD said, and its use has been restricted on other boats while safety checks are carried out.