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Navy reviewing SOP after captain drowning

KAOHSIUNG, Taiwan -- The Navy will offer the family of Chen Chi-tsung, a submarine captain found drowned yesterday after two days of extensive searching, compensation in the “best possible” terms for their loss, the Commander of Navy said.

The Navy will also conduct a comprehensive review on the role of the military in the accident, Admiral Kao Kuang-chi said.

“Military authorities deeply regret the captain's tragic death,” Kao added.

Vice Admiral Sun Yi-cheng, director of the Political Warfare Department at the Navy Command Headquarters, said that the Navy had amended its standard operation procedure (SOP) to make life jackets or safety hooks mandatory for all personnel working on the decks of warships or on the raised observation towers of submarines from now on.

The comments by the senior officials were made at a memorial service that saw Chen's body moved to a makeshift funeral hall in the morgue of a military hospital in Zuoying, Kaohsiung, at 10 a.m. yesterday, less than three hours after the body was found by a Navy vessel in one of the biggest search and rescue missions in recent times.

Over a 1,000 Navy personnel, dozens of vessels and chopper sorties were deployed in the two-day search for Chen, who was swept off the submarine Hai Lung's sail, the tower-like structure of the vessel, during a training exercise Monday. Chen was not wearing a life jacket or attached to a safety hook at the time.

Chen's body was found at 7:42 a.m. in waters 3.1 nautical miles southwest of the naval port in Zuoying. At 8:02 a.m., a rescue vessel reclaimed the body and verified it as the deceased submarine skipper.

Preliminary examinations show that “Chen drowned after slipping into the sea, and that he had no external wounds on his body,” Huang Shin-jang, spokesman of the Prosecutors' Office of South District Military Court, said.

Local media questioned the maneuver of the submarine after the captain slipped overboard. The Chinese newspaper, the United Evening News, quoting “coast guard personnel and shipping experts,” questioned the decision of Commander Sun Jung-lu, the executive officer of the submarine, to stop the engines and put the rudder over full, which would lead the vessel to drift off-course, making it more difficult to return to the recovery point.

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 Navy reviewing SOP after captain drowning 
Navy personnel salute Chen Chi-tsung, captain of Submarine Hai Lung, who drowned after being swept overboard in a training exercise, Monday, Sept. 14. Chen's body was found yesterday morning. (CNA)

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