VLADIVOSTOK, April 4 (Itar-Tass) – Court hearings began on Thursday during which the defendants in the case of an accident at the Nerpa nuclear submarine are questioned. Former commander of the submarine, Captain 1st Rank Dmitry Lavrentyev and crewman Dmitry Grobov, will present their version of the events, the Secretariat of the Pacific Fleet Military Court reported.
The witnesses for the prosecution and the defence have already made their statement at the trial, which is held behind closed doors. The jury is expected to deliver the verdict in this case later this month.
On November 8, 2008 during contractor’s sea trials in the Sea of Japan there was an unauthorised activation of the automated fire extinguishing system on the Nerpa submarine that had not yet been adopted for service by the Russian Navy. As a result, 20 people were killed and another 38 got various degrees of poisoning from exposure to Freon and tetrachlorethylene. There were a total of 208 people aboard the submarine at that time. The fatalities included 17 civilians (members of the commissioning team of the manufacturer) and three military servicemen. The deaths and injuries were caused by an unsanctioned release of fire suppressant gas inside the submarine. The gas caused victims to die of asphyxiation or suffer frostbite in their lungs. The incident was the worst Russian submarine disaster since the Kursk sank in 2000. Three of the dead were military personnel and the rest were civilians from the Vostok, Zvezda, Era and Amur shipbuilding yards who were members of the acceptance team.
On October 14, 2011, based on the jury’s verdict the court acquitted both defendants - Commander of the submarine Dmitry Lavrentyev and crewman of the submarine Dmitry Grobov. The jurors arrived at the conclusion that the investigation failed to prove that the fire extinguishing system was activated directly as a result of the “human factor.”
On May 3, 2012, the Military Collegium of the Russian Supreme Court granted the appeal of the Military Prosecutor’s Office of the RF Pacific Fleet, overturned the judgement of acquittal and submitted the case for reconsideration, but only by the end of the year the jury panel was formed and the consideration of the case on the merits began.
The investigation charged the commander of the Nerpa submarine with abuse of power that caused death by negligence of two or more persons. According to a version of the prosecution, Lavrentyev failed to ensure training of the sub crewmembers in working with the new equipment. They also did not have training for actions in emergency situations ahead of the submarine’s sea trials.
The investigation says that Dmitry Grobov is directly responsible for the accident. According to the case files, he, being on duty, out of “boredom” pressed the buttons that activated the fire suppression system. He was charged under the RF Criminal Code articles “Causing death by negligence of two or more persons as a result of improper execution of professional duties” and “infliction of grievous bodily harm by negligence due to improper execution of professional duties.”