The following article by Caroline Davies appeared in The Daily Telegraph, United Kingdom, on Saturday, 30th. December, 2006 and is reproduced below with copyright acknowledgement. The submarine's officers and crew had spent a friendly and most convivial Christmas visit to the City of Plymouth here in Devon, southwest England as guests of the British Royal Navy and local families. We extend our deepest sympathy to their fellow colleagues and especially to their family and friends back home.
Two American sailors died and two more were injured yesterday (29th. December) when they were swept from their nuclear submarine in rough weather in Plymouth Sound.
The four were performing routine operations on the Minneapolis-St. Paul when a freak wave sent them overboard about 1pm.
Though attached to the submarine by ropes, Force 10 gusts and huge waves prevented them getting back on board. They were buffeted against the vessel as crew members tried to reach them.
Two of the sailors were pronounced dead at Derriford Hospital after being given emergency resuscitation as they were brought ashore.
The two survivors were later moved from the hospital to the sick bay at the shore establishment, H.M.S. Drake.
Immediately after the four were washed overboard, a helicopter was scrambled from RNAS Culdrose as the Plymouth Lifeboat and MoD police launches sped to the scene.
A spokesman for Devon & Cornwall Police said: "The vessel, a Los Angeles class submarine, was leaving the harbour in Plymouth and near the breakwater at the entrance to the port. Weather conditions were poor.
"Rescue vessels manned by the Ministry of Defence police attended and the sailors were brought ashore, where they were met by ambulance personnel."
A spokesman for Brixham Coastguards said: " The situation was very dangerous because they were still attached to their vessel and when we arrived were being tossed around a good deal. The conditions were terrible, with strong winds and poor visibility.
"It is common for submariners to perform general maintenance on the the outside of their shell, but in weather like this it unexpectedly became dangerous."
He said passers-by who stopped to watch the dramatic rescue had also put themselves in danger.
"People who were gathering on the front to watch the incident were also putting themselves at risk of being washed into the sea.
"One young girl was nearly swept out when a wave hit the side and splashed over."