French trawler likely scuttled by sub, say experts

24th March 2005, Comments 0 comments

BREST, France, March 24 (AFP) - A French trawler that sank with its five-member crew off the coast of England a year ago was probably pulled down after its nets were snagged by a submarine, a report by maritime experts said Thursday.

BREST, France, March 24 (AFP) - A French trawler that sank with its five-member crew off the coast of England a year ago was probably pulled down after its nets were snagged by a submarine, a report by maritime experts said Thursday.

The Bugaled Breizh - which operated out of the Brittany port of Guilvinec - was lost off Lizard point in southwest England on January 15. It later emerged that a NATO training exercise was shortly to get under way in the zone.

"While nothing can be formally proved, and nothing in the judicial file implicates any person in particular, I have the intimate conviction that the Bugaled Breizh was pulled down by a submarine," one of the report's authors said.

The report was drawn up by two Brest-based experts who were commissioned by families of the victims and the Guilvinec fishermen's committee. They had no access to the wreck.

Two official enquiries - one technical and the other judicial - are under way into the accident.

"A cable from the trawler could catch on the propeller or rudder of a submarine. ... The trawler rears up immediately and then sinks very quickly.

The submarine continues on its way with little damage, and with the accident unnoticed by most of the crew," the report said.

The Dutch submarine Dolfijn is known to have been in the same zone at the time, but its commander has insisted his vessel was not responsible.

And in Paris on Thursday the defense ministry strongly denied claims that a naval vessel could have caused the accident.

"The Dutch submarine was sailing on the surface and came to the aid of the trawler. We have absolute certainty that these events could in no way have been caused by the exercise that began the next day," said spokesman Jean-Francois Bureau.

The exact position of all the naval vessels in the area had been communicated to French fishing boats, he said.

The experts' report said that other explanations were technically possible for the sinking, including a collision with a rock or underwater wreck or equipment failure.

In November a prosecutor with access to the judicial report said it looked unlikely that the Bugaled Breizh had collided with a surface vessel, and that the cause of the accident was probably underwater.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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